Osceola County students return to school amid changes, challenges

COVID-19 still causing issues

OSCEOLA, COUNTY, Fla. – Students went back to school Thursday in Osceola County as the district is facing changes and challenges due to COVID-19.

Outside Highlands Elementary School there was a long student drop-off line and some parents said there were first-day jitters.

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“Nervous. There’s so many more kids coming into school than there were from virtual learning,” Daryll Seide said. “It’s nerve-wracking, but you can’t keep them at home.”

With schools trying to limit the amount of people on campus, parents weren’t allowed to walk their children to the classroom.

Other coronavirus precautions have remained in place from last year, but the biggest change is an optional face-covering policy in Osceola County.

“They’re optional, but not in this house,” Seide said. “My daughter has to keep them on. Safety first.”

The school year also began with a shortage of about 35 bus drivers, which led to some delays.

Transportation Director Arby Creach said it was logistically difficult to cover routes using existing resources.

“There were some late buses,” he said. “There were buses that had to do double runs, which put them late, especially into the high schools.”

Currently, Osceola County is in the process of hiring about a dozen drivers, but the training process typically takes about three weeks.

“It’s a very difficult task to go from zero to bus driver, and only a select few make it,” Creach said.

The district held a bus driver job fair on Tuesday and plans to hold another hiring event in the next few weeks.

Creach said he’s asking for patience from parents while managers are being used to cover each bus route. Meanwhile, the district is also finalizing arrangements for possible use of a private bus vendor.

“By using a private contractor, if necessary, we can let those managers do their jobs and stay in the offices,” Creach said.

Anyone interested in becoming a bus driver can apply here.

About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.