Approximately 20 school bus drivers resigned from Lee County Schools in Fort Myers, Florida following the first day of school last week, exacerbating the district’s staff shortage.
“They left for a variety of reasons including COVID-19 concerns, the additional stress caused by a driver shortage and taking the brunt of parent frustrations at bus stops when they arrive late due to the shortage,” Rob Spicker, the assistant director of media relations and public information for the district, told School Transportation News.
He added that Lee County needs more than 100 drivers to be fully staffed. In the short term, the district is working to safely pick up and drop off as many students to and from school as possible. This means Lee County may reassign students to other buses for the time being. Additionally, a bus might have to complete multiple runs.
“We identified the coming shortage at the beginning of the year and started our recruiting then, advertising on our website and other locations, attending job fairs, and frequently asking our families if they or anyone they knew was interested in driving a bus to please apply,” Spicker said.
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He added that the district offers incentives including around $300 in upfront costs for a background check, physical and commercial driver’s license. Spicker noted the district also changed its process to hire drivers as full-time employees instead of temporary employees so they would be eligible for benefits as soon as possible.
“Our efforts are working,” Spicker noted. “We had our largest class of new hires in years just a few weeks ago. Those 16 new employees are hitting the road soon. We have a class of eight that are now training behind the wheel and seven just starting the classroom portion. We do see a light at the end of the tunnel as we continue to bring drivers on board.”