HONOLULU (KHON2) — Amid the school bus driver shortage, finding a way to and from school for many families has been an ongoing challenge. It has a Hawaii Island family considering unconventional ideas.

“I even thought I might have to arrange for an Uber type of situation and again, that wasn’t ideal,” said Juliana Cruz, a Hawaii Island parent.

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The driver shortage has caused the suspension of eight routes on Maui, five on Kauai, and forced the consolidation of routes on Oahu. Now, the Department of Education is providing more accessibility to county buses.

“Starting today, high school students can sign up for free bus passes under the EXPRESS program on our website and passes will be going out over the next several weeks,” said Keith Hayashi, HIDOE Superintendent.

Applications will remain open for high school students until the end of the school year.

The DOE said about 6,000 high school students currently utilize school buses. The more students they can get to use the pilot program, the more space opens up for younger riders.

“So we’re going to start to analyze that immediately,” said Emily Evans, HIDOE Student Transportation Services Administrator. “Our plan is to reallocate routes for second semester so we’ll look at everything and if we can reallocate our resources starting in January, if not sooner.”

As far as recruiting more drivers, the HIDOE hired six out of 50 applicants over the summer on Maui and Oahu.

Parents hope the new pilot program will be effective to make sure keiki get to and from school safely.

“It would be really nice if we could come to some kind of resolution as far as normal, regular, reliable and safe transportation,” said Cruz.

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Any students interested in using the EXPRESS pilot program can find more information here.