Central Florida school buses run late as drivers call out on Good Friday, districts say

Late service was anticipated, but Osceola not in ‘dire straits,’ district spokesperson says

Central Florida school buses run late as drivers call out on Good Friday, districts say

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Officials with multiple public school districts throughout Central Florida are asking parents for patience on Friday due to bus driver callouts ahead of the Easter weekend.

Osceola School District Transportation Services spokesperson Zach Downes said 24% of bus routes did not have a driver Friday morning. Meantime, families of students in Orange County schools were warned to expect delays in the morning and afternoon “due to a high number of absences.”

“We’ve been reminding them, like, ‘You need to be here on Friday, you have to be here on Friday,’” Downes said. “That doesn’t mean people are going to show up but, hey, you know, we’re gonna work with what we got, we’re going to do the best we can.”

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Osceola had already reported a shortage of 40 drivers earlier this week as a spike in sick calls among them put three bus routes at risk, prompting district transportation officials to warn parents. The district also said it notified substitute drivers and has asked trainers to pick up routes to avoid delays.

Friday, though the district reported that nearly a quarter of its bus routes were without drivers, Downes said Osceola was not in “dire straits” either. Additionally, any Osceola student who arrives to school late due to the driver shortage will be excused, the district said.

Randy Wheeler, assistant director of the district’s transportation department, said the 24% figure had eventually fallen to 21% of Osceola routes without drivers later in the morning, which he called “much more manageable.”

“We were anticipating a higher-than-normal number of bus drivers that were going to be out today,” Wheeler said. “There still will be some delays, but it’s looking as though this is going to be a typical day.”

The district’s transportation services department will hold a bus driver job fair from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 19 at the Simpson Road compound in Osceola County. Learn more about the event at the district’s website.

A spokesperson for Seminole County Public Schools told News 6 that their district did not experience any issues related to bus driver shortages Friday morning.

In Orange County, a spokesperson said the district experienced a 16% absentee rate for bus drivers Friday morning, up from an average of about 10% on any given day. The district noted that routes with absent drivers were covered by other transportation employees, but due to that as well as how some routes were combined or otherwise altered, delays were still to be expected.

Listen to the message left for OCPS families in the audio player below:

A spokesperson for Marion County Public Schools says they need to hire 19 full-time bus drivers. The district has raised the starting wage to $15.65 an hour. They have also added the option for flexibility in drivers’ schedules.

“If you want to drive two days a week, only in the mornings, we will work to find somebody who will work those two afternoons a week,” said Kevin Christian, director of public relations for Marion County Public Schools. “Even if you can only drive one or two days a week, we still want to talk to you because that would be one or two less things we have to find another driver for.”

Christian said the district has also lessened requirements for drivers. They are hopeful it will attract new candidates.

“They dropped the requirement to a high school diploma,” Christian said. “So, really the biggest asset you have to have now, the big requirement I should say, is a clean driving record. If you’ve got a clean driving record and you can pass that background check, we will talk with you. We will bring you in. We will train you. We will pay for your training and then we will hire you once you get that license.”

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.