"A nightmare": Leon County Schools bus drivers describe their first week

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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
August 15, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Parents in the Leon County School district are not the only ones frustrated by the chaos of the first week; bus drivers are also upset, and ready to return to the old routes.

WCTV first brought you this story last week, when bus drivers were concerned about new routes.

The main emotion felt by drivers on Thursday as they prepare to switch back to last year's routes: Relief.

"It's crazy, it's been like a nightmare. It just was really confusing, we just had to drive these routes like from Timbuktu," said Damarcus Hayes.

Hayes has been driving a bus with Leon County Schools for 18 years; he's ready to return to last year's system.

"Glad it's going back, Hallelujah Jesus, going back to the old way," said Hayes.

Linda Shabazz is also happy for the return.

She is retiring this year, after 35 years on the job.

"I like working with the public," said Shabazz. "I wanted to wrap it up in good spirit."

Shabazz said it is difficult to take care of children on a bus, while also focusing on driving a new route.

"It's very important for the driver and the assistant to be able to maintain a child, be able to maintain a student on a bus," said Shabazz. "Going from one route to another one, it's very very hard on the students, and the driver, and the bus system."

Gwayne Dillion, a lead worker in the Training and Recruitment Department for Leon County Schools, has worked as a bus driver during part of his eleven year tenure with Leon County schools.

Now, part of his job involves training bus drivers.

Dillion said by switching back to the old routes and keeping consistency in the morning and afternoon, children will know who their driver is, eliminating confusion for them.

The first week struggles have hit close to home for Dillion; he used to drive special needs children to and from school for the county.

"That's a passion of mine, and I really was kinda upset about that," said Dillion. "The special needs kids did not know who their bus driver was, and some were left at home. We really want to get that rectified, get that taken care of."

Dillion believes having the same morning and afternoon routes will help with student management on the buses.

"A lot of the drivers have different ways that they deal with the kids, whether they reward them on Fridays, or something like that," said Dillion.

However, the issue reaches further than behavior management on buses; it's also about student relationships with their bus drivers.

"The student could have someone to talk to in their bus driver, they could be their role model," said Dillion. "It may be, that student may turn out to be the bus driver one day!"

EduLog Across Florida
Superintendent Rocky Hanna mentioned in his press conference on Wednesday that other Florida counties, Broward and Hillsborough, have used this software without difficulty.

Hillsborough County schools told WCTV that they use EduLog software to communicate their bus routes, but their staff creates the routes, which is different from Leon County's situation.

Broward County has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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