ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An Orange County father reached out to News 6 because of school bus delays for his son’s bus route.
Since the beginning of the school year, William Harper said his son’s school bus has been late to pick him up by two to three hours.
At times the bus has failed to show up altogether.
“The bus is scheduled [for] about 8:45 a.m., and this bus doesn’t get here till well after 10 a.m., sometimes almost 11, and some days the bus doesn’t even pick them up,” Harper said.
He said his son is one of several middle schoolers that have been impacted by the delays. Harper said the strain has impacted his child’s coursework.
“He’s doing great in all the rest of his classes, but it’s showing and wearing on his first-period class, which is an academic class, and he isn’t doing well in that at all,” he said.
Harper said he has left work a number of times to pick up his child.
“The bus wasn’t there or didn’t show up in a timely manner to where I didn’t want him sitting out in this environment all morning.”
Harper said it has gone beyond the point of just an inconvenience, so he started making calls to Orange County’s transportation services to get answers.
Harper said he made the call the first time his child wasn’t picked up. The father said he was on hold for thirty minutes.
“They explained they were short over 100 drivers,” Harper said.
He said despite numerous attempts and unreturned calls he could not get a straight response from transportation services or school board members. That’s when he decided to contact News 6.
“Today I let them know, if you guys don’t want to call back, I think I want to take a step into getting results as you guys say online,” Harper said. “Find out if they are aware of this.”
News 6 reached out to Orange County Public Schools to ask if district leaders are aware of the incident and what they are doing to correct the problem. In an emailed response, a spokesperson said the incident and bus route would be investigated.
Meantime, a nationwide school bus driver shortage is impacting Central Florida. Volusia County schools are still short 30 bus drivers from the 2019 school year.
Seminole County leaders said they are trying to fill 30 bus driver vacancies and Marion County reported the district could use 20-25 more bus drivers.
This week Orange County announced an incentive program aimed at hiring new bus drivers which includes benefits, and a $3,500 sign-on bonus.
While the call for bus drivers started before school began, Harper said that is no excuse.
“If that is the case, you knew that before school started, there are some proactive options you could take,” Harper said.