OKEECHOBEE, Fla.-- There are a lot of buses, but no one to drive them.
That's the problem the Okeechobee County schools are facing now that they have a critical bus driver shortage.
School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says other school staff is now having to work double-duty.
Bus mechanic Clint Thompson would typically be working on buses, but the shortage is putting him in the driver's seat. "It's stressful and exhausting," Thompson said.
He is filling in as a certified bus driver on routes that would otherwise have no driver. "We're pretty much working some days as much as 12 hours a day."
Kenworthy says Thompson isn't alone. "We actually have some teachers that we've actually pulled out of the classroom and had them drive," Kenworthy said.
Thompson worries spending too much time driving a bus will jeopardize his ability to do his original job well. "If we have a breakdown, then there's nobody at the shop to go get the bus or take them a spare."
The school district is short about a dozen drivers daily. Kenworthy says some drivers retired unexpectedly, others left for medical reasons, and some wanted jobs with better pay.
"We're just a little short this year," Kenworthy said.
For students, the shortage has led to canceled field trips, and student athletes have been late to games.
Parents like Nichole Anderson worry about their kids not having guaranteed transportation to and from school.
"They worry whether they're going to be home in time or now, because some freak out. There's been some times when they've gotten home late and I wonder what happened," Anderson said.
The district says even if they don't get enough drivers soon, they will still make sure students get to school on time in the morning. After school, however, students may have to wait longer for an available driver to pick them up.
Kenworthy hopes more people will step up and become certified to drive a bus for the district. "You know, if you like working with kids, there's nothing better," Kenworthy said.
Bus drivers are required to be at least 21-years-old and have a clean driving record.
They must be CDL certified, and take a driving test through the district.
Call the district at 863-462-5146 if you're interested in applying.
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