OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – School districts across Central Florida have struggled with a bus driver shortage and the School District of Osceola County is looking to fill positions once again.
The district said in a release Friday it is in “dire need” of bus drivers and seeking to fill 36 open positions.
“On a daily basis we have to improvise some solutions to getting all the kids to schools,” said Randy Wheeler with transportation services.
Wheeler said hiring and retaining schools bus drivers is a nationwide issue.
In Osceola County, he said 26,000 students ride on school buses every day, making up 243 routes.
“Currently, 36 of those 243 planned routes do not have a regular bus driver assigned to it,” Wheeler said.
That doesn’t include people who call out of work, which Wheeler said is mostly for COVID reasons. On Friday, an additional 36 drivers were absent from the morning routes. Wheeler said 30% of the routes didn’t have a driver, which forced the district to break up routes, have other drivers pick up more kids or double back.
Wheeler said while he knows it’s frustrating for parents and students, delays are unavoidable.
“No matter how late the bus is, the bus will eventually get to the bus stop,” he said.
Other Central Florida school districts are reporting similar bus driver shortages. Orange County said it’s looking to hire 100 drivers. Seminole hopes to hire up to 50 drivers. Lake said it has 24 open routes. Marion County is holding a job fair later this month.
Wheeler said they’re discussing possible sign-on bonuses, as well as other solutions to this problem, including paying parents to take their kids to school or using public buses.
“We’ve discussed the possibility of perhaps we could give some students bus passes to ride the Lynx bus to school,” he said.
Wheeler said they’re willing to consider anything as he doesn’t think this problem will go away anytime soon.
“We’re going to have this challenge for a couple, three more years to come,” he said. “This is something I personally don’t think we’re going to rebound from in a month or two.”
Interested candidates are asked to bring their driver’s license, social security card, and three years of driving records. The district said no experience is required and they will provide paid training toward a commercial license.
If you are interested in applying for a bus driver position, click here.
The Osceola County School District is hosting a bus driver job fair on Jan. 25 at the transportation services compound from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Anyone with questions or would like more information can contact the district’s Transportation Department at 407-518-4540.