October 18th has arrived and, so far, it’s just another Monday morning in Seattle. But the deadline for city, county, and state workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination comes along with new challenges.
Most immediate, many Seattle Public Schools families scrambled over the weekend to figure out how to get kids to campus after the district said it was canceling more than 140 bus routes:
Beginning on Monday, October 18, Seattle Public Schools will be suspending approximately 142 bus routes.
Why is this happening?
- Seattle Public Schools contracts with First Student, a third-party vendor, for bus service; we do not own or operate school buses.
- Like most school bus and transportation services throughout the country, First Student has been experiencing driver shortages.
- More driver shortages are expected on Oct. 18 when Washington state law requires all school district employees – including third party contractors – to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Who will continue to receive bus service?
- Students receiving special education services whose IEPs specify transportation as a related service.
- McKinney Vento and foster students.
- Students with a 504 plan that includes transportation services.
- Schools that serve large numbers or high proportions of historically underserved students.
- Schools at interim sites.
Around Capitol Hill, the impact has varied with families at Stevens Elementary, for one example, sorting out groups to walk and ride with to school together, while other area schools like Washington Middle School were part of equity prioritization and were able to maintain bus service.
It’s a nationwide problem with school bus services just one of many categories that have become challenging to staff in this stage of the pandemic. Last month in Massachusetts, the National Guard was deployed to help fill in during school bus driver shortages.
King County Metro said it was also ready to lend a hand, providing information for families turning to its routes to get kids to school. Metro has had challenges of its own with cancellations of routes due to staffing levels dating to well before Monday’s deadline.
For the Seattle Public School students and families using transit as their “school bus” starting Oct. 18, here are some quick tips to help you get to and from school https://t.co/oOSwYrGpK3 pic.twitter.com/vctKmcUzM0
— King County Metro 🚏 🚌🚎⛴🚐 (@kcmetrobus) October 17, 2021
Over the weekend, Metro said 85% of its staff “have already verified their vaccination status—and we expect that number to grow.”
Other areas of civic service have raised concerns but seem to be safely removed from the crisis situation many predicted. In Seattle, the police department says most officers have complied with the order.
At Seattle City Hall, SPD’s tallies aren’t far below the city’s workforce as a whole — and there’s still time for more to report. As of Thursday the city said more than 25 departments were “95%+ of employees vaccinated” and that that the Seattle Fire Department was at 88% as of Friday with SPD tallying 82% vaccinated.
The Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle City Light is at 90%, and Seattle Public Utilities all clocked in above 90%.
City employees have until Monday’s deadline to submit vaccine verification information in order to comply with the mandate.
CHS reported here in August on the requirements at the state, county, and city levels of government as officials looked to further reduce the number of unvaccinated people and address public safety issues from a workforce including unvaccinated employees.
The deadline comes as the City of Seattle prepares to ramp back up its public vaccination efforts amid continued high transmission with a new downtown Vaccination Hub, boosters, and plans for kids to finally begin the vaccination process.
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