Teacher shortages, bus driver call-outs on the first day of class

Thousands of Central Florida kids are headed back to school on Wednesday and there are concerns that teacher shortages and the lack of bus drivers could impact the start of their school year.

In Osceola County, 13 bus drivers called in sick on the first day.

The following counties are back in class starting Wednesday:

  • orange
  • Osceola
  • Seminoles
  • Lake
  • Marion
  • sumter
  • Brevard
  • flagler
  • Polk

Volusia County students head back to class on August 15.

In the Orange County School District, some bus drivers will start their routes early and make two trips to some locations to pick up students to alleviate the strain. This is specifically for high school students. For example in the morning, some students will get picked up early so they can be dropped off at school by 6:30 am The bus driver will go back to those stops and pick up the second round of students to get them to school by 7 :00 am

RELATED: Orange, Seminole and Brevard families return to paying for meals this school year

Drivers will also make two drop-off trips in the afternoon. The district says the positive side to these changes is that its able to stretch resources until they can hire more people and it’ll help them give you a more accurate drop of time in the afternoon. The district did ask parents again to drop off your child at school if you can to make room on buses.

Seminole County is also short on bus drivers. To apply, ideal candidates need a high school diploma or GED, a clean driving record, and a permit allowing them to get a commercial driver’s license. They also say a love for children is a plus.

The starting salary for school bus drivers is $16.53 per hour. The district is looking to hire up to 70 new drivers. You can apply on the Seminole County Public Schools website.

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Students who rides the bus will have to scan their student ID when they get on and off. A tablet will be installed by the door. Students who forget their ID will not be turned away right off the bat, but ID’s will eventually be required to ride.

The program also alerts bus drivers when a child is trying to get on the wrong bus or off at the wrong stop.

As for security at Central Florida schools this year, safety is top of mind. Maria Vazquez says Orange County public school staff trained for several emergency situations over the summer.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina says his deputies also spent the summer training to end the threat of an active shooter as soon as possible. Those deputies include nearly 200 school resource officers. Mina says his department also has access to more than 6,000 cameras at the district’s schools.

RELATED: Deputies to carry rifles at Brevard County schools: ‘We mean business’

Leaders in Brevard County are taking extra steps to keep schools safe this year. Sheriff Wayne Ivey says he’s beefing up security in classrooms by giving more tools to school resource officers. He says he plans to outfit SRO’s in tactical gear.

Previously, deputies would have to run to their car in the parking lot to get their rifle from a gun safe if there was an active shooter on campus. Now, that weapon will be with them at all times. The sheriff says not everyone will agree with this approach, but his main focus is school safety.

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