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Baby you can drive my bus: Central Florida districts still looking for bus drivers and aides

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

School is back in session but several Central Florida districts are down bus drivers. The staffing issues are leaving remaining drivers with more routes to run.

Orange County still needs about 100 school bus drivers and subs, while Osceola County Schools need to hire about 30 bus drivers. 

Bill Wen, Senior Director of Transportation Services at Orange County Schools says in order to handle the shortage, drivers are doing two high school runs every morning. One group of kids gets to school at 6:30 and the other arrives at 7:00. 

He says these same bus drivers need to turn around and make two trips again in the afternoon to drop high schoolers off, delaying the pickup for elementary and middle school kids. 

“It's different and it’s not popular. It’s not popular amongst the teachers, the parents nor the employees.”

Wen says new drivers can earn a $1,500 dollar sign-on bonus and a perfect attendance bonus. He says the ongoing shortage is caused by Baby Boomers retiring, and Millennials not picking up the wheel.

Zach Downes, the spokesperson for Transportation Services at Osceola Schools, says they’re asking their bus drivers to run extra routes when they can. 

“Now not every driver has three schools. Some drivers, depending on their bus load will might just have a high school run. Or they might have a high school and a middle school or a high school and elementary school. So what we do is we try to see who doesn't have three runs in case there is high absenteeism. Or if we need a bus to go to a certain school, we always try to see who has less schools to handle and who can get there first.”

Downes says they’re also looking for about 140 bus aides, who ride the bus with drivers and help with behavioral management. 

Osceola County will hold a hiring event for bus drivers later this month.

[embed]https://www.wmfe.org/happy-first-day-of-school-central-florida-aaa-has-some-reminders-for-drivers-today/201939[/embed]

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan and is a graduate of both the University of Michigan and Northwestern University. In her free time, she enjoys playing her guitar, writing fiction, and cooking.