The Dillingham City School District buses no longer operate outside city limits, but students who used to ride the bus from past that point are finding other ways to get into town.
The scene is timeless. After school on a crisp fall day, buses line up in front of Dillingham Elementary School. The buses open their doors and the kids pile on. But there have been some changes behind the scenes. The Dillingham City School District has overhauled its bus system in recent months.
Sifsof Transportation took over the bus service from Schroeder Transportation, who ran the bus service for three decades. Hootie Schroeder ran the bus service for 36 years and is still driving for Sifsof Transportation.
Victor Sifsof said that he and his son Bryan Sifsof bid on the contract to ensure that the business would stay local.
“We had bus drivers for years here that knew the kids, knew the area and had a good safety record. I wanted to see that continue. Luckily we hired most of the drivers from the past,” said Victor Sifsof.
The other change is that the buses now run three routes instead of four. They no longer pick up or drop off students past Dillingham city limits. Neither the school district nor the provider can put an exact number on how much money that saves, but both say that it is significant.
“The school district had a budget they were working with,” said Bryan Sifsof. “We came in originally with the four routes that they wanted. The price was something that was out of their budget. We worked with the school district, with the outgoing superintendent, to get it within costs that they could afford.”
It affects a handful of students, including those who live in Raven’s View subdivision. Their parents have the option bringing them to a closer bus stop. Some, like Kate Berkoski and her husband, bring their children to school when they go to work in Dillingham.
“We’ve always taken our after school bus for granted because we both work in town, and our kids don’t always want to stay after school until our work day is over. But we just decided that we need to be really flexible and figure out how to make it work after school,” said Berkoski.
To fill the after school hours, their oldest child volunteers at the Dillingham Christian Youth Center. Their middle two children help their dad in his classroom, and their youngest child has been involved in 4-H activities.
Families who live outside Dillingham city limits have the choice of enrolling their children in Dillingham or Aleknagik, but it seems the bus system overhaul has not affected anyone’s decision. The students who were going to school in Dillingham before the changes are still going to school in Dillingham.
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