Editorial l Bus drivers essential for schools | Editorials
THE PROBLEM: School bus drivers.
OUR OPINION: Important part of the school experience.
Not enough school bus drivers.
It’s not just a Citrus County problem, or the Tampa Bay area, or even a Florida problem. Nationally, school districts are facing a shortage of bus drivers and are looking for ways to ensure they get children to school, safely and on time.
While it is still difficult to hire a full complement of bus drivers, this year the pandemic is blamed for an extraordinary shortage. A recent the Chronicle history noted that the Citrus County School District employs 130 bus drivers. Five positions were open with three replacements in training and five other newbies in training. Gaps are filled by substitutes, trainers or accredited district staff. Although Citrus is doing better than most of the other districts, it is still struggling.
School bus drivers are a critical part of the success of school districts. Almost everyone who took the bus to school remembers their bus driver – he is the first person associated with the school to greet children in the morning and the last to say goodbye to them. Drivers must have a commercial driver’s license and be prepared to work an inconsistent schedule that requires them to show up early for routes and then be absent until they return students to their stops at the end of the school day.
They should also focus on safety. Among motorists, distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents. Imagine the challenge for school bus drivers to avoid the distractions of a vehicle full of excited school kids. This is one of the reasons the Citrus District Administration has hired assistants for some buses – to focus on policing while the driver focuses on driving safely.
Competition from delivery services adds to the nationwide shortage of bus drivers. With the increase in online shopping over the past year, delivery drivers are busier than ever and some businesses can afford to pay more for their time.
The Citrus School District serves some 16,000 students on 22 campuses. Like his peers everywhere, he should open lines of communication with drivers. There are many benefits to driving a school bus, including a stable salary, benefits, and a schedule that allows for great freedom during the day. But especially in times of talent shortages and competition, employers need to understand what’s going on in the minds of employees.
Only special types of people are good school bus drivers, and they are a key part of the school experience. The drivers are helping the Citrus County School District deliver on its promise: “where learning is expectation and caring is commitment.”