LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Since school started Tuesday, 20 bus drivers quit their jobs with Lee County Schools. The county was already short by 100 drivers during the summer. Parents and the school district say this is situation needs serious attention.
“Some of the factors for our bus drivers, for them personally were concerned about students not wearing masks. There’s a lot of stress on them, picking up extra routes and filling in extra time to make sure that we are picking up everybody,” said Robert Spicker. “And unfortunately, they often take the brunt of a parent’s frustration when the doors open and that just drives them away.”
Spicker is the communications coordinator for Lee County Schools. He says they’ve already hired enough people to make up the ones lost this week, but they are still critically short. Which is causing a lot of delays, with getting kids home on time or at all. One parent tells us her child hasn’t been to school in three days because the bus never showed.
“They did not come so I drove her to school. And they also did not come to pick her up to bring her back home from school and I had to drive in the middle of a storm,” said Jennifer Sopka. “There were multiple parents there and the teacher that dropped her off to me told me that there was only one bus that came to pick up any students.”
Sopka says her eighth-grader is ready to go back to school, but she can’t pick her up in the evenings because her car isn’t reliable in rainy conditions.
“I understand that they are understaffed, however, somebody needs to contact the parents if they’re not going to pick up the students and figure out something different,” she said.
While many other parents are concerned about buses arriving hours late, Spicker says there is no need to panic if you contact the school and know your child made it onto the bus.
“Those buses always have an adult and sometimes more than one on board. So, they’re always going to be supervised. Not going to tell you that’s perfect, it’s not the most comforting thing to hear as a parent. But they’re not alone,” said Spicker.
In the case of an emergency or if your child hasn’t made it onto the bus, the drivers or the school will contact you first.
Parents can track their child’s bus directly on the wheresthebusapp, to see if there are any delays. Spicker says if your child missed their stop, they should alert the bus driver immediately, rather than getting off at the wrong location.
At the elementary level students are escorted onto the appropriate bus by school staff. If you send your child to school with a cell phone for emergency use, instruct them to keep the phone off and safely in their backpacks during the school day.
If you are interested in becoming a bus driver in Lee County, visit www.leeschools.net.