As the first day of the 2022-2023 school year is quickly approaching, the Humboldt County School District (HCSD) Board of Trustees has had to face many tough decisions as a direct result of shortages in workforce. 

Humboldt County Transportation Coordinator, Anthony Valenzuela, presented an update to the Trustees at their most recent meeting on Aug. 9 in respect to necessary modifications that must be made to bus route availability for students who live within city limits. The motion to approve the changes to the bus routes passed with Trustees Nicole Bengochea and Lori Woodland and Attorney John Doyle absent from the meeting. 

“This is not a reduction for fiscal reasons, it’s a reduction for manpower issues. We are unfortunately finding ourselves with the same issues that other districts are having where they are unable to man their routes,” said Humboldt County Superintendent, Dave Jensen. 

The routes will be expanded out to a two-mile perimeter for each school, so all students who live two or more miles will be able to ride the bus to and from school. Students who live within two miles of their school will not have a bus to ride. According to Valenzuela, without the changes to the routes, the district will be a driver short every single day and the risks of students not having transportation to school runs higher because someone has to cover the shift. 

With the implementation of the changes, the district will be considered fully staffed to run the routes. Based on numbers from the previous school year, approximately 45 students will be impacted by the change in routes, specifically those in the Pioneer Park area and those near Center St. and Moon St., according to Valenzuela. Transportation will only be provided to high school and middle school students in those areas because of the distance to and from the high school and middle school.

“[Anthony] has had some unique challenges over the past couple of years and this year, unfortunately, continues that streak,” said Jensen.

Unfortunately, the district is also subject to losing more drivers after the start of school, according to Valenzuela, and the district desperately needs more drivers to step up as full-time drivers or as substitute drivers. Thanks to Valenzuela’s hard work and persistence for the past three years, he has been able to get HCSD approved to have drivers certified with their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and passenger endorsements at no extra cost to the individual, only time put in for book work. For those that already have their CDL, Valenzuela is also able to certify them with a passenger endorsement through the district as well. It normally costs drivers around $3,000 to get their CDL, so this is a major advantage that HCSD can offer to drivers. 

Despite the unfortunate adjustments that must be made to the routes, Valenzuela assured that he is able to alter and reorganize the routes by the third week of school if the district gets an influx of willing drivers. By the third week of school, Valenzuela said he usually has a more accurate headcount for students and can see where the needs are exactly.

“Three weeks is a perfect time to look at the routes again; there are just some things you can’t guess,” said Valenzuela.