Back to school with masks, bus delays in Lee County

If your child is riding the bus to school, a good tool to download right now is the Where’s the Bus app, so you know if the bus is on time. We already know a bus driver shortage could leave your child waiting.

Parents and students will need patience. The School District of Lee County is still short of at least 100 bus drivers, so it wants parents to know that late or delayed buses are likely. Due to this mass shortage of drivers, the drivers who are working are going to be doubling up on routes, so longer waits are to be expected.

Lee County is pulling out all the stops to entice more drivers, even offering them benefits upfront, but it’s still an uphill battle. It’s worth remembering, too, that SDLC has told us in the past that buses are the place where social distancing is the least possible. Lee county encourages parents to work together to try and have an adult present at the stop to wait with the children—whether it be a friend, family member or neighbor.

“It’s just the way it is if you think you’re going to a restaurant and they don’t have enough people to serve you, and they’ve got a sign on the door that says ‘no more takeout after 4 o’clock,” said SDLC spokesman Rob Spicker. “We’re in that same position. We are in desperate need of hiring people. But it’s very difficult to hire people right now.”

Parents who want to be alerted that their child’s bus is late are encouraged to sign up for the text alerts via the school messenger. Anyone interested in becoming a bus driver can visit the SDLC website.

The head of Lee Health, Dr. Larry Antonucci, is begging parents to have their children wear masks as they head back to school. Parents in Lee County can opt out of the mask requirement, but Antonucci asks you wait until our current COVID-19 surge gets under control.

Many parents WINK News has spoken to so far say it’s not about whether their child will or will not wear a mask, it’s about their right to choose. Some parents have children with special needs who will panic if made to wear a mask, while others have children with underlying health conditions that must wear one. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said that the state Board of Education can withhold the salaries of the superintendent and school board members if they violate his executive order forbidding school mask mandates.

“I think, at the end of the day, people’s lives are in our hands every day,” said interim Lee County superintendent Ken Savage. “And we know that. And the pandemic is a unique piece. It’s a dynamic picture, it has been a very difficult evolving picture. We’ve had to be flexible, and learn as we learn about these things.”

SDLC is giving parents the option to opt their students out of wearing a mask. The district said Tuesday afternoon that so far, 10,664 of the 89,024 students enrolled had opted out.

To access the opt-out form, follow this link.

Reporter:Taylor Wirtz
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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