Substitute driver shortage causes delays to Hillsborough Schools routes

- The Hillsborough County School district confirmed a shortage of substitute bus drivers caused delays to several routes in the Tampa area, after parents alerted FOX 13 to the issue.

Lori Neal says, for nearly two months, her daughter's bus has been late to her stop near Nebraska Avenue and Fowler Avenue. She says she's seen delays of up to an hour at drop off and pickup time, meaning some days her daughter isn't getting to school until well after the bell rings at 7:45 at Miles Elementary.

"I've experienced my child being late to school. I've experienced her not making it to school. I've experienced her not coming home in a timely fashion in the afternoon," said Neal.

School board member Cindy Stuart blamed the transporation issues on a spurt of drivers getting the flu, saying that there aren't enough subsitutes to cover when the primary drivers are out.

Parents say they don't believe the delays at Miles have anything to do with the flu, because they've been so consistent.

The district has battled for several years with a driver shortage because of low pay and a largely thankless job. The district said it increased wages, bought new buses to incentivize drivers and tried to reach more potential workers with job fairs. The district said it is still working to hire more substitute drivers.

"We are recruiting. We are going outside of the state to recruit. We are looking at ways that we can make that job more attractive," said Stuart.

Hillsborough County Schools spokeswoman Tanya Arja told FOX 13 starting Tuesday, routes were adjusted to help alleviate lateness at the Miles elementary stops. The district also had supervisors out at the school Wednesday to make sure buses left on time.

Parents hope the school system comes up with a more permanent solution.

"I think they need to offer bus drivers a more lucrative payment plan of some sort and try to get some way to figure it out," said Neal.

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