JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – What was that old elementary school song we sang? “The wheels on the bus go round and round.”
Well, you need somebody behind the wheel for them to go round and round when students line up at the bus stop to get on board when school starts in Duval County Monday. And the reality in Jacksonville is the same reality for school districts nationwide, there just aren’t enough bus drivers to fill all the routes.
Rebecca Cardona, who represents Teamsters Local 512 -- the local school bus drivers union, wouldn’t say exactly how many bus drivers short Duval County is, but admits the school district needs more.
“I can tell you that both carriers are still short and they are in need of drivers,” Cardona said. “So they are in continual recruiting hiring and training mode.”
The companies that provide the district with bus driving services are working to make the job more attractive.
“We continue to work with the carriers to drive up the standards here locally with the drivers and monitors with increased wages and benefits, hourly work incentives and bonuses to encourage folks to come on board into this craft,” said Cardona.
“And so although we want quantity out there to be able to pick up these students and get them to and from school timely and efficiently, we want to make sure that they’re qualified to do so in a safe manner,” Cardona added.
The first day of school is always more hectic and there is often confusion with school bus schedules and delays are not uncommon. The bus driver shortage and the fact that some drivers may have to double up on routes may complicate matters.
“The best advice I would give is to have a little patience and be a little mindful of the shortage and know that these drivers and monitors on these buses are doing the best that they can,” Cardona said. " I would encourage the parents to refer to Duval County public schools website for those late bus reports as they update that information.”
Cardona also advises moms and dads with younger children to accompany their kids to the bus stop. And emphasizes for the bus drivers she represents “student safety is always a priority.”
Here is a link to the Duval County Public Schools Transportation website where you can find information about bus delays and more.