WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The School District of Palm Beach County is heading into the new school year with a shortage of bus drivers.
The district budgeted for 614 drivers but has only filled 440 positions.
Claudia Paul, a parent, said her son Alfonso is heading into middle school this coming school year. Paul is hoping and praying she doesn't have the same problems with the school bus as she did with her oldest child.
"Last year, they had a shortage at the beginning of the school year," she said. "So, it's quite a few times we were at the bus stop, either the buses didn't come or when the bus did come, it was too full because they had to consolidate."
Joseph Sanches, chief operating officer for the district, said because of the driver shortage, some will cover multiple routes. Plus, they'll ask the office staff to mechanics to cover routes.
"So, with 440 and 497 routes, we're still short 57 drivers," he said.
The question to be answered is, why is there a shortage?
Sanches said the reasons can range from COVID-19 and retirement to folks not wanting to work for low pay.
"We're very fortunate that our board recently passed an increase in salaries and a new contract which increased our starting pay to $17.33 an hour," he said.
Paul said worrying about a shortage of school bus drivers is stressful to a parent depending on them.
"I'm sorry that they're going through that, but we have parents that work and can't get their kids to school, so we depend on the school bus," she said. "So, if there are not enough drivers, then what are we supposed to do at that point."
Sanches said the district will scramble and continue to use outside vendors to cover the routes, but the routes will be covered.