Marion County Public Schools is facing a bus driver shortage. The district held its second “Bus Blitz” event Tuesday to encourage applicants for the available bus driver positions.
The shortage comes from retiring drivers and a lack of personnel to cover drivers who get sick. The pandemic has worsened the strain on the school system.
Rebecca Rora, the director of transportation for Marion County Public Schools, said the district is looking for drivers who have a love for children.
“You just have to be a caring person,” Rora said. “The benefits of [being a bus driver] is just seeing those smiling faces.”
The driver shortage is affecting instruction during the school day. Students are being dropped off at school at later times, which is causing teachers to either wait for them before beginning class or risk students falling behind.
“It directly impacts the students, getting them to the classroom,” Rora said. “When they are missing instructional time, regardless of it being five minutes to 20 minutes, it’s a significant impact on their whole day.”
The school district’s response to the shortage is hosting public hiring events at different locations throughout the county. This is its second Bus Blitz event, with the first event held in early December.
The goal of these events is to get the word out about the benefits of being a bus driver. These benefits include pay of $15.65 an hour and schedule flexibility.
District spokesperson Kevin Christian said Marion County is not the only county being affected by this shortage.
“There is not a school district in the state of Florida that is not experiencing some kind of bus driver shortage,” Christian said. “I certainly know my counterparts in the immediate area – Alachua County, Lake County, Sumter County, Orlando area down into Osceola County – they are all looking for bus drivers.”
Marion County Schools is looking to hire at least 20 to 25 bus drivers as soon as possible.