Officials: Polk parents must prepare as district faces school bus driver shortage

- Parents and kids may have a tougher time getting to and from school this year, especially on the first day back.

Hillsborough County’s first day of school is Friday. Polk County kids go back on Monday.

No matter where you live, you may end up waiting longer than usual for the school bus to arrive.

“It’s going to be hectic. Really hectic,” Polk Co. school bus driver Lucinthia Servantes told FOX 13.

There is a national school bus driver shortage and the effects are being felt locally. On Thursday, a few days before Polk Co. schools re-open, district administrators were still looking to fill about 70 open bus driver jobs.

“This is one of the worst years we’ve seen,” Assist. Polk Superintendent Rob Davis said.

To take up the slack, school transportation officials are putting more kids on each bus and making routes longer, which creates delays.

In Polk, busses could be running between half an hour and an hour behind schedule.

The problem of finding drivers is especially acute this year because the economy is good, and drivers are opting for more lucrative jobs.

Starting school bus drivers in Polk make about $10 an hour. Some private companies start their drivers off at double that.

Davis says he hopes to have the positions filled in Polk in a few weeks.

In the meantime, Davis is asking parents who have a vehicle to drive their kids to school.

The Polk County School District said they are actively recruiting and training drivers, but are still in need of drivers and bus attendants. They ask anyone who is interested and qualified to head to polk-fl.net/employment. Potential employees can also call 863-534-7300 or 863-534-7298 for more information.

Parents can expect delays when school resumes on August 13. The school district is encouraging them to drive their children to and from school, if possible. Otherwise, they can find updated bus delay information on the school district’s website. Parents will need to head to polk-fl.net, and search for the keyword, “bus delays.”

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