Yelm district addressing transportation challenges

New bus drivers, vehicles coming in near future


Yelm Community Schools has faced a number of shortcomings with its transportation during the 2023-24 school year. Students and their families dealt with bus route cancellations and delays due to a district-wide bus driver shortage.

Under the direction of new YCS Transportation Director Jeff Adams, who was hired in November, the department is making strides to improve for the remainder of this school year and beyond.

During a presentation in the district’s school board meeting on Thursday, March 28, Adams said the department has added eight authorized, licensed bus drivers since December, including two substitutes. This comes after the district lost 18 drivers from September 2019 through November 2023, according to the presentation.

YCS is also purchasing three 77-passenger school buses for the beginning of the 2024-25 school year, as well as a 20-passenger bus with built-in car seats. In 2025-26, the district will purchase three more 77-passenger buses. The bus purchases will cost a total of $1,124,558.23 across the next two years.

Adams said the transportation department also “significantly improved” its driver training program, partnering with North Thurston Public Schools and collaborating with the Olympia School District to bring consultants and mentors into its program. He credited the work of YCS Transportation Assistant Director Jason Roberts for the improvements. 

“That was almost all due to Jason’s work to make that happen. He does a ton of work behind the scenes every day, and he’s a great partner,” Adams said. 

Adams added that the district did not have any in-district route cancellations the week prior to the meeting and that the inconveniences have occurred “less and less.”

Aside from the tangible upgrades to the department, he said the improvements to its morale was one of the biggest tasks since his arrival.

“Quite frankly, the morale of the transportation department had tanked. Those that were there that have remained could attest to that,” Adams said. “The morale was just really bad. I can tell you from listening to the drivers that the morale has improved significantly. I think it’s still going to improve more. People are just stepping up their game and aiming for a higher level of excellence.”

YCS plans to implement a pilot program called Traversa, a software that will allow parents and students to know when the bus will arrive and account for students on the buses. Adams said the department will pilot one bus for the program in the next few weeks and plans to pilot one school before the end of the school year before the program launches district wide in the fall of 2024.

Superintendent Chris Woods acknowledged the work that Adams and Roberts, along with the rest of the department, have done to improve the transportation in the district.

“We’re very excited about this because we’ve had our challenges this year. We couldn’t be more proud of Jeff and Jason and the transportation department,” Woods said during the meeting.