JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The first day of school for Duval County students brought some major headaches for parents trying to get their kids to and from school. The district sent an email to Action News Jax, Sunday, saying it is experiencing a shortage of bus drivers, urging parents to drive their children to school.
A district spokesperson said it has 130 bus driver positions open out of their 800. That’s about 16% of the total.
“Our first day goal is always to get them at school, get them fed, and get them home safely,” Superintendent Dr. Dana Kriznar said. “The high school routes, we had some that were slightly behind.”
Vaughn Smith has four grandchildren heading back to school in Duval. His high schooler’s bus didn’t show up Monday morning.
“I’ve had numerous problems with the high school bus route last year. It seems like it’s gonna be the same thing this year.” Smith said. “You know, they’re not reliable.”
The district sent an email on Sunday to its media partners:
“The driver shortage became significantly worse last week as drivers expected to return for the year chose not to do so. Our contractors are currently short more than 130 drivers of about 800 total positions. In your coverage, we would greatly appreciate it if you would invite and encourage anyone capable of driving a bus to contact our contractors. The quicker we have community members willing to step in and provide this service to our students, the quicker we will solve the problem.
The website with hiring contacts for our contractors is: Transportation / Bus Drivers Wanted (duvalschools.org). STA is in the most need. Thanks for your help.” -DCPS Spokesperson
The district said it welcomed more than 100,000 students back for the 2023-24 school year.
A DCPS spokesperson sent out an updated response regarding school transportation on Monday:
“Because of a shortage of drivers, we did have two service areas – one primarily on the westside and one in the northside/urban core – that did have some routes run significantly behind schedule, particularly for middle schools, which are the last route of the sequence. High school routes run first, then elementary routes, followed by middle school routes. If buses are significantly late getting to schools to pick up students, students will be monitored in a safe, indoor environment until the bus arrives. Based on input from our transportation service vendors, our district needs between 130 and 140 additional drivers to staff all routes. About 660 positions are already staffed. Fully staffed, our contractors would employ more than 800 drivers, including backup drivers and drivers for activities.”
The district is asking parents to monitor the bus delay webpage for information on afternoon routes.
Related Story: Check school bus delays throughout Duval County
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“I wanna make sure my grandson gets the proper education and on time,” Smith said. “A lot of time if that can’t happen, on time, that reflects back to the student.”