INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — School buses across Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast are ready to ride for the first day of school on Thursday.
Each school year, the first few weeks are tricky as students, parents, and school districts adjust to the rhythm of getting thousands of children to and from school every day.
Nationwide and locally, there is a shortage of school bus drivers.
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WPTV spoke to Paul Baker, who's been a school bus driver in Indian River County for the last four years. He said that, despite news of those shortages, his team and support system are amazing.
Baker said the School District of Palm Beach County is doing what it can to make sure parents don't have to worry about their kids making it to class on time.
"Our dispatchers usually do a fantastic job of getting everyone organized and getting us the route information, so we know what we are doing," Baker said. "Things that happen on the fly, you know, we can hear everything on the radio. To be quite honest with you, listening to this group of drivers come together is pretty amazing."
Baker urged drivers to pay attention on the road, and always come to a complete stop when a school bus' red arm is out and red lights are flashing.
"I enjoy being a driver. I enjoy being part of a team that's much bigger than me," Baker said. "You get to know these students. You get to know them by name. Really over the course of a year, you build a nice relationship with them and I enjoy that aspect of it."
In Palm Beach County, the nation's tenth largest school district is piloting a new program at seven schools this year called "Here Comes The Bus," allowing parents to use an app to track where their child's bus is.
"The seven-school sample will give us an idea to fine-tune that. And once we're comfortable with it, we'll roll it out to the entire district," Superintendent Mike Burke said.
The schools apart of the pilot program are Limestone Creek Elementary School, Pahokee Elementary School, Lake Shore Middle School, Don Estridge High Tech Middle School, John I. Leonard High School, Seminole Ridge High School, and Royal Palm School.
If you child is planning to ride the bus, parents are reminded to use the "Register Your Ride" feature on the school district's website to register your student for the bus, as well as verify the location of their bus stop and pick-up and drop-off times.
"We ask for patience from the community. The first days of school are always a little challenging," said Joseph Sanches, the chief operating officer for the district.
Sanches added that all 475 school bus routes will be covered on Thursday, despite a shortage of about 100 drivers.