Transportation issues arose on the first day of school in Broward County.
The bus situation improved significantly compared to before, however.
“Since this was the first day of school, it is possible some school buses may have been delayed in their routes,” a statement from the Broward County Public School District read. “The Student Transportation Department is working hard to address any issues or concerns. Parents or guardians can also contact the Student Transportation Department – contact information for each of the terminals is available at browardschools.com/transportation.”
Besides some issues with transportation, school officials say the first day of school went smoothly for the district’s 257,000 students.
“Broward County Public Schools students are back where they belong, in class and on campus,” Broward School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood said.
The district still has 365 teacher vacancies that it’s trying to fill, as they did have some people who refused to follow the district’s mask mandate.
“We actually, throughout the entire district, we only have two cases. One staff, one student across the entire district, and the parent said, ‘You know, we are going to look into it,’” Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said.
Cartwright defended the board members who defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order.
“They are exercising their rights under the Constitution and their duty to provide for a safe environment for the local school district,” she said.
School officials are grappling with a nationwide bus driver shortage.
Health concerns over the Delta variant, low pay, a lack of full-time hours, and school bus drivers taking jobs in other industries, have led to schools needing drivers.
"There's always a fair amount of turnover, but it's worse this year because we got behind the curve during COVID," Todd Watkins, director of transportation for the Montgomery County School District in Maryland. "We offer great benefits, but there can be disadvantages to this job: You work a split shift, so you don't get eight hours a day. You don't have good summer employment. So there are a fair amount of people who think the grass is greener someplace else."
Some schools are making cuts to routes, leaving parents scrambling to figure out how to get their kids to school, while other schools are offering to pay parents to drive their kids to schools.
Aaron Bass, chief executive of EastSideCharter School in Wilmington, Delaware, says that 155 of the school's 500 parents have signed up.
"I wish I could use that money for buses, but I can't because we don't have drivers," Bass said. "It's one more economic ripple from the pandemic."
20 bus drivers quit their jobs in Lee County, and the county was already short by 100 drivers.
“Some of the factors for our bus drivers, for them personally were concerned about students not wearing masks. There’s a lot of stress on them, picking up extra routes and filling in extra time to make sure that we are picking up everybody,” said Robert Spicker communications coordinator for lee county schools. “And unfortunately, they often take the brunt of a parent’s frustration when the doors open and that just drives them away.”
Lee county schools have already hired enough people to make up the ones lost, but they are still critically short, and that is causing delays getting kids home on time or at all.
If you are interested in becoming a bus driver in Lee County, visit www.leeschools.net.