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Northeast Florida school districts working to make sure they have enough custodians, bus drivers

File photo: Des Moines Public Schools custodian Cynthia Adams cleans a desk in a classroom at Brubaker Elementary School, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. The cost of bringing students back to classrooms is proving a major stumbling block to safely reopening schools across the U.S. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
File photo: Des Moines Public Schools custodian Cynthia Adams cleans a desk in a classroom at Brubaker Elementary School, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. The cost of bringing students back to classrooms is proving a major stumbling block to safely reopening schools across the U.S. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

As Northeast Florida school districts plan for reopening this fall, they’re looking to make sure they have enough custodians and bus drivers to make that happen.

An issue that school leaders are starting to discuss is custodians and the critical role that they will play in fighting the coronavirus when schools reopen.

That was a big issue at Tuesday night’s Clay County School Board workshop, during which the School Board discussed having enough staff to handle deep cleanings of schools if there’s a COVID-19 case at a school.

Superintendent David Broskie said during the meeting that the district was looking to add seven custodial positions at the district office to handle increase cleaning needs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the challenges is, and I don’t mind kind of sharing this with the crowd, is the hiring of custodians is a challenge. For a variety of reasons, it’s a challenging job. It’s not what you can get at Amazon or other places and make. I say that out loud as superintendent. That’s the truth,” Broskie said.

In St. Johns County, the school district has 305 active custodians and is working to fill positions for new schools that are being built. The district had added new custodians in the most recent budget but that was normal budgeting -- not for extra custodians due to the pandemic. The district adds it will be using a new cleaner called Omni-Shield that can keep surfaces clean up to 90 days.

The cleaning of buses will also be an issue. In Nassau County, school officials told News4Jax that they will likely be cleaning buses each day and using district personnel to do it. It’s unclear who will do that cleaning, but bus drivers looking for extra work hours is an option. The school district said it has 84 bus drivers and 92 custodians.

Bus drivers

Like usual, multiple Northeast Florida school districts are looking to hire bus drivers. But what is unusual is that thousands of children in the area who ride buses will be, in most cases, required to wear masks.

The St. Johns County School District told News4Jax it has 289 authorized full-time drivers and need to hire around 25. Also, St. Johns County has been promoting that its drivers have received recent wage increases, so full-time drivers make between $16 and $24 an hour.

The Clay County School District has 171 bus drivers. About 25 of them are in training.

The Nassau County School District is planning how to clean busses each day. Again, that will likely be done with current staff -- possibly with drivers who want to work more hours.

Duval County Public Schools didn’t have numbers readily available as of Wednesday, but it did tell News4Jax that it has contracts with Student Transportation of American and Durham School Services, which are both continuously hiring and recruiting drivers.


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