Duval bus riders experience significant delays on first day of school

How have school bus issues impacted your family?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Public Schools sent a message to parents Sunday warning of ‘significant delays’ on many of its bus routes on the first day of school Monday.

The school system said the local effect of a national bus driver shortage worsened for them last week, when drivers who were expected to return for the upcoming school year, chose not to.

Duval Schools said the contractors it uses are more than 130 drivers short of their 800 positions.

Duval County Public Schools warned parents to expect “significant delays” on many bus routes when the new school year started. How have the school bus issues impacted your family? Let us know below.

The contractors listed on their ‘transportation/ bus drivers wanted page’ are Durham School Services and Student Transportation of America.

Duval Schools wanted parents to know, if possible, to make alternative plans for their students to get to school on time and not depend on their bus stop schedule. The district asked parents who must rely on the bus to ensure their children are supervised while at the bus stop since many routes will experience lengthy delays.

The message went on to tell parents whose children must use the bus, to make sure they have water and anything else they need to stay safe in the extreme heat.

Jasmine Smith a DCPS parent with three school-age children in elementary, middle and high school, said finding out about this message the day before school began was frustrating.

“You plan for the bus to be there, you plan for them to have a way to school, ” Smith said. “Knowing at least two weeks in advance so you can plan around work schedules around daycare drop-offs and everything would’ve been nice. Would’ve been great.”

News4JAX reached out to the local union, Teamsters Local 512, which represents bus drivers, monitors and mechanics about this delay.

Rebecca Cardona VP of Teamsters Local 512 sent this message:

“Teamsters Local 512 recognizes that a school bus driver shortage continues to exist not only in Duval County, but nationwide. Local 512 continues to work with the carriers to address the shortage and is happy to report that our members just this weekend ratified two new labor contracts, one with Durham School Services in GSA 3 and one with Student Transportation of America in GSA 1 /1-2. Both of these new agreements contain greatly improved driver starting pay rates and benefit packages moving forward. The Union’s hope along with our represented Companies is that these improvements will help bring new drivers into the industry as well as enhance driver retention. While recruiting continues, Local 512 is certain that our current members will work hard to provide the most efficient and safest transportation for all students in Duval County.”

Cardona clarified in a follow-up message the new starting rates will be “$16-$20 an hour for drivers pursuant to the respective GSA’s Collective Bargaining.”

The district also made a plea for help from the public asking, “anyone capable of driving a bus to contact our contractors. The quicker we have community members willing to step in and provide this service to our students, the quicker we will solve the problem.”

The website to apply to become a bus driver is Transportation / Bus Drivers Wanted (duvalschools.org).

Cardona said the current rates a prospective driver might see on the websites for Durham and STA will not reflect what was negotiated this weekend.

Smith said she hopes DCPS can find drivers soon so parents and children don’t have to suffer too long.

Any bus route that will be more than about 15 minutes late will be listed on the district’s bus delay webpage.

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