Parent voices concern after picture shows student sitting on floor of St. Johns school bus

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A St. Johns County father is concerned after his son sent him a picture of a student sitting on the floor of a school bus he said was on the way to Pacetti Bay Middle School.

The father asked Action News Jax to not identify him out of fear his son would be suspended for taking the photo, so we’re going to call him ‘John.’

“It’s showing a problem that’s been going on since the beginning of the school year on the buses in St. Johns County, which is a child sitting on the floor of the school bus because there’s not enough available seats,” John said.

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John said the picture represents a bigger problem. He says the school buses don’t have enough seats to accommodate all riders, and even his own son has had to take a seat on the floor.

“It’s not ideal and it needs to be addressed,” John said.

He and his wife don’t have the option to drive their kids to school either.

“It’s difficult with two working parents. We really rely on the buses to get him to school,” John said.

Action News Jax reached out to school officials about the photo.

In an emailed statement, Al Pantano, the St. Johns County School District director of transportation, said the matter is under investigation.

He sent this statement:

“Reference the photo: I have referred this matter to our Fleet Operations Coordinator to investigate the matter and refer the operator to our Safe Operator Committee to remediate and adjudicate the matter as appropriate. The operation of a school bus with a student seated on the floor of the bus is strictly forbidden in our district. Our operators know the standards.”

He said they will ask the following questions in the investigation.

  • Is the photo of one of our buses?
  • If so, what bus is it?
  • Was the bus physically underway?
  • Was the student sitting on the floor by necessity or by choice?
  • What is the student count for the bus?
  • Are there any ineligible student riders aboard the bus?”

He also said the county is experiencing increases in student bus ridership because of population growth.

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We also asked about bus operator shortages in the county, to which Pantano said:

“The Transportation Department of the St. Johns County School District is staffed at 93% for school bus operators (273 assigned operators for 294 full time operator positions). The word “shortages” is misleading in my opinion. The challenge affecting us is not the “shortage” of operators but rather the percentage of operators available to operate school buses each day.”

Pantano said the district has 21 openings for bus operators. It’s those openings that parents like John want filled.

“They need to address that change, hire more drivers and bring on more buses,” John said.