SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Three to a seat could be the norm in some elementary Sioux Falls School District bus routes at least for December.

SFSD assistant superintendent Dr. Jamie Nold said at least 12 bus routes will be impacted by changes in the school bus routes for December.

The school district and its transportation provider School Bus Inc. of Sioux Falls have been dealing with driver shortages since before the start of the school year.

The goals with the December changes is to eliminate buses that ran double routes such as one route for an elementary school and then doing another elementary route, and late pickups on routes, Nold said.

“We don’t want any of our elementary, middle school or high school students to be waiting for a bus (in December) that doesn’t show up for a while,” Nold said.

“We wanted to make sure get down to a number (School Bus Inc. could manage),” Nold said. “Most of it was managed through not a cancelation but a combination of different routes.”

Nold and Steve Hey, the vice president of business development for School Bus Inc., said the driver shortage still exists but School Bus Inc. is working to add more drivers.

Changes in the school bus routes

Whittier – reduced bus routes from 6 routes to 5 routes LBA – reduced bus routes from 3 routes to 2 routes Patrick Henry – reduced bus routes from 7 to 6 routes Robert Frost – reduced bus routes from 3 routes to 2 routes Rosa Parks – reduced bus routes from 5 to 4 routes LHS to CTE Shuttle – moved the pick up time from 7:15 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. at LHS so this bus could also pick up the RHS to CTE students, reduces one driver in the a.m. Temporary for the month of December: No ECH bus routes at Anne Sullivan – reduced 2 routes in the a.m. and 1 in the p.m.

The degree of the December changes varies on the route and school, Nold said.

“One change might have impacted three routes…,” Nold said.

One early childhood education route was canceled, Nold said.

Some of the 12 changes included areas in which three K-12 education bus routes that were not running at full capacity were combined into two routes.

That will result in two fuller or full buses.

“Most of our regular education buses are 40-foot buses and rated at 78 passenger capacity,” Hey said. “That’s three to a seat.”

School bus seats are 39 inches.

Three to a seat might be more comfortable for elementary students than for middle school or high school students, Hey and Nold said.

Nold said the district and School Bus Inc. did look at middle school routes and bus capacity.

“…the capacity of the bus is certain number but is it realistic to expect and truly believe that every seat is going to have a capacity of three to a seat and three individuals are going to be able to sit there. Where is that tipping point,” Nold said. “We really had to look at that.”

In some cases, three routes were combined into two but a fourth or fifth bus was also assigned to pick up some students so that the two main buses were not at the maximum capacity, Nold said.

Hey said the company also assigned the full capacity routes to drivers were used to bus routes with full or nearly full capacity routes.

The district will not be requiring masks in any of the buses, but masks are available, Nold said.

Also, families have been encouraged to have family members sit together on buses or to consistently sit with the same students, he said. Many students sit with and near their classmates who they are in school with each day, Nold said.

The district plans to review the December changes at mid-month. Some of the changes could remain for the year or be extended. Others could be permanent, Nold said.

The route that runs between Lincoln High School and the project-based learning academy at Jefferson High School will now pick up students Roosevelt High School, he said. It’s a more efficient route now and it could be permanent, Nold said.

The combining of three low-capacity routes into two could also continue in the future, Nold said.

Families have been notified of bus route changes through information sent home with students, emails and an automated phone call, Nold said.