Osceola County School District continues to struggle with bus driver shortage

Other districts also struggle with bus driver vacancies

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Yvonne Brown takes pride in being a school bus driver for Osceola County’s School District.

“I’m not going anywhere. It’s gonna be where I retire,” Brown said. “I love being around the children. I like working with them. I like seeing their growth.”

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The Massachusetts native began her career as a bus driver in 2010. Since then, she’s moved up the ranks and now trains others for the job she takes to heart.

“There is so much opportunities for you to move on,” Brown said.

But finding drivers like Brown hasn’t been an easy task for the school district since last summer.

“We’re always looking at new ways, and going back to the drawing board to see how we can appeal to people,” Zachary Downes, communications specialist with Osceola County School District Transportation Services said.

The school district said there is interest, but keeping applicants is the challenge.

“We get about 35, I would say an average 35 people every job fair. However, getting them to go through the process, it’s lengthy and then by the time they could complete the process they may have found another job where they don’t have to jump through all these hoops,” Downes said.

The Osceola School District currently has 227 routes across the county. It’s a number expected to increase due to the growing population in the county.

“There’s multiple housing developments going up down into Narcoossee Road area and then the Celebration area. So, there’s a lot of factors that go into this shortage,” Downes said. “And on top of that, we have a new school opening next year which will obviously that will require more routes.”

This past year 61 permanent bus drivers were hired and 42 either resigned or were terminated. “Sometimes people just find better jobs. We also need to account for absenteeism, when people get sick, or they have life-altering situations, so we still need to hire subs,” Downes said.

It’s an issue other counties like Orange and Seminole face as well. Orange currently needs about 100 drivers, and Seminole County School District needs more than 80.

On days when Osceola is facing a shortage, Brown gets back behind the wheel to make sure every route is covered.

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