Leon County facing bus driver shortage ahead of school year

Leon bus drivers needed
Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 5:21 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2022 at 9:07 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - With just over three weeks until the school year begins in Leon County, the superintendent said the district is facing a “critical shortage” in bus drivers to get students to and from school.

“Unfortunately we don’t have enough of them,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna.

As it stands now, Hanna said the district only has 97 bus drivers and 115 bus routes that need to be filled.

Hanna said LEAD drivers and other supervisors are filling in for the time being until the district can bring on more qualified drivers.

“It’s not an easy job,” Hanna said. “They’re a classroom teacher and their classroom is a bus.”

The district is increasing driver pay to over $18 an hour to try and bring in more recruits.

“We’re making our plea for people in the community to come out and drive a bus for Leon County Schools,” Hanna said.

Hanna said the district has “moved the needle financially” for bus drivers, with pay up from $11 an hour from when he started in order to compete with other companies like STAR Metro.

The district has also waived the fingerprint fee for applicants to become bus drivers, but the background check process remains in place.

“Every person is vetted against any potential criminal history in the past and then moved forward to be able to work with kids,” Hanna said.

There are no fees required for licensing or training for bus drivers through Leon County. Hanna hopes they can get new applicants vetted and get them their commercial drivers license if they don’t have it already.

However, for new applicants, he doesn’t believe they’ll be able to complete the process for the first day of school.

“It depends on what level of training, if they’ve already driven a school bus, have their CDL, then that process would be much shorter than someone coming in off the street,” Hanna said.

Hanna said the shortage in bus drivers was only exacerbated by COVID, forcing several drivers to retire.

“They’re doubling up on routes. Some of the routes are running behind schedule, but we’re doing the absolute best we can to make sure our kids are safe and the routes are running on schedule,” Hanna said.

Hanna said they have had several LEADS drivers and other supervisors filling in on routes until they’re back at full capacity.

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