Orange County bus drivers getting ready for new school year

Drivers urged to be patient, look out for kids boarding buses

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County school bus drivers are getting ready for the new school year and district officials are urging drivers to be cautious while out on the roads.

Orange County students head back to school on Aug. 13. Bus drivers will participate in a weeklong training session next week, including practicing their routes on the roadways.

Josue Irizarry has worked as a bus driver for 11 years. He said he's excited to pick up his students and start the new year.

"I'm glad to see them back. I'm sure they're glad to see me back," Irizarry said. 

Irizzary is driving one of 900 buses that will take 70,000 students to and from school in Orange County. He said safety is a top priority.

District transportation officials said drivers need to stop for buses and keep an eye out for children boarding or walking across the streets. 

"They have to realize that we're taking their kids to school safely, so be cautious, be gentle with us," Irizarry said. 

Bill Wen, senior director of Transportation Services for the school district, said the district is short 50 bus drivers, but officials said they hope to fill the positions before school starts.

Wen said even if they do not have enough drivers, they will make sure students get to school.

"We have flexibility to pick a stop from another route and put it on another bus," Wen said.

There are new school buses joining the Orange County fleet this year. There is new technology on board the new buses, including a GPS system that will help the district track routes, as well as cameras inside and outside the bus.

"So we can see what's going on," Wen said.

Wen said parents should get their children to their stops five minutes early to make sure they do not miss the bus. Parents are also urged to make sure students know what buses they are riding. 

News 6 checked with all of the Central Florida school districts to see if there is a shortage of bus drivers.

Osceola County school officials said they will be fully staffed with bus drivers when the school year starts.

In Seminole County, the district said they have 10-15 positions to fill, but add they recruit year-round and have candidates available in the pool to fill the vacancies.

In Flagler County, officials said all the bus routes will be covered and they are utilizing five substitute drivers.

Lake County officials said they have 17 out of 249 routes that are open this year largely because of retirements. Lake County is using substitute drivers and is combining routes to make sure students are safely accommodated while they fill the positions.

Volusia, Brevard, Marion and Sumter counties have not yet responded.

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