FORT MYERS, Fla. – With a shortage in school bus drivers becoming an issue, the Lee County school board will decide on Tuesday whether to extend incentives to hire new drivers.
Children are arriving to school late three to four times a month — that is if their buses even show up, some parents said. Cynthia Farley says her daughter once waited for a bus that never arrived.
“She was out there for over an hour in the dark. It was 40 degrees,” Farley said. “I called transportation and they said they didn’t even know their driver didn’t come to work that day, so after a while, I told her to go home.”
The district has drivers that work all 750 routes across Lee County. But with 20 percent of bus operators calling out on any given day, the district is looking for ways to attract substitute drivers.
The proposed incentive package includes continual training and training reimbursement, flexible hours and a little more than $14 hourly pay. That package is up for a vote Tuesday. Lee County School District hopes the school board will approve its incentive package in addition to a proposal to hire 100 new substitute drivers in the next six months.
Farley said students and their educations are suffering.
“It’s frustrating. I think that the buses shouldn’t impact their education. They shouldn’t just not have a bus in the morning or have to wait an hour in the dark or be late for their first period. Or late and they can’t get breakfast. It’s just not right,” she said.
Transportation Executive Director Robert Morgan said he understands parents’ frustrations.
“I don’t want any student out there on the road. It’s very challenging for us,” he said.
A high school diploma is not required to qualify to drive for the district, but interested applicants must present a Social Security card and good driving record of more than five years.