Lee County Schools grappling with bus driver shortage
If your child is getting ready to catch a Lee County school bus in the morning, there’s a chance that bus might not show up! There is a severe lack of school bus drivers in the county, and WINK News has heard from parents that their children have been left stranded without warning.
The Lee County School District says it doesn’t have enough drivers to cover every route, so 20 substitutes are needed every day. If someone calls out sick, that causes even more of a shortage, meaning a kid waiting at a stop might be there for quite a while.
“When you add the quarantines, the leaves of absence and the regular sickness, we fall even more behind,” said LCSD spokesman Rob Spicker. “Unfortunately, there may be instances where not every stop can be picked up.”
The School District says the need is critical. It has already bumped the pay for drivers and offers to cover the initial cost of getting the commercial license, and now there are discussions of raising the hourly wage even more and adding benefits. The school transportation director has been sounding the alarm about this shortage since February, because if they’re behind on drivers now, it will be even worse in the fall, when every student returns to school.
But Lee County Schools says it’s hard finding people to fill the spots, because other companies are also looking for drivers. Meanwhile, parents are growing more frustrated by the inconsistency and lack of safety involved in their children waiting for buses that never show up.
One mother, who did not wish to be named, says her kids’ bus hasn’t come at all for the past three days. The first time, they had to stay home because she couldn’t be late to work. The next day, she drove her kids to school. On Monday, she waited for 30 minutes before realizing the bus wasn’t coming, barely getting the children to school on time.
“It’s beyond frustrating, it’s completely unacceptable, it’s not safe,” the woman said. “I am actually altering my schedule and I’m just going to have to take them to school for the rest of the school year, because I cannot trust the busing.”
“I mean, there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it: We are concerned right now about what August is going to look like,” Spicker said. “Because our drivers, a lot of them, will find summer employment. And if they find a job that pays them more, or pays them the same, what’s their incentive to come back in August? So we need to get them in line, we need to get them ready to stay with us.”
“For the last three days, consecutively, absolutely no bus has shown up to the stop at all,” the frustrated mother said. “And notifications are not being sent out to parents that substitute buses are being sent, or they’re going to be late.”
The School District of Lee County’s website lists immediate openings for school bus drivers.
“If you believe in our mission to ensure that each student achieves his or her highest personal potential, then, we want to hear from you,” the District shared on its website.
Necessary Job Qualifications:
- GED or Diploma (waived until 2/26/2022)
- Social security card
- Five years of driving experience
- Satisfactory driving record
The District says it offers training for prospective bus drivers.
Anyone interested can visit the Lee County school district website for the step-by-step application process.