HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A new school year is underway for the more than 220,000 students in Hillsborough County Public Schools.
Interim Superintendent Van Ayers admits the district is facing issues, including teacher and bus driver shortages.
“We have challenges but we’re in a good spot to respond to all of them,” Ayers said.
According to Ayers, as of Thursday morning there were 455 teacher vacancies and 200 open bus drive positions.
He says the 600 drivers they do have on staff are doubling up routes and substitutes are filling open teaching slots.
“They have 150 resident educators; we call those educators have bachelors degrees but they don’t have education certification requirements. They’re in the classroom day one just like regular teachers and we’re going to support them on their journey to become classroom teachers,” he explained.
Inside the classroom, educators are navigating new laws and curriculum changes. The changes include a shift from Advanced Placement Psychology to the AICE Psychology course due to recent controversy between the Florida Department of Education and the College Board.
Parents at Carrollwood K-8 are staying positive amid the changes.
“If you keep your focus on our kids and making sure that our staff and our teachers are supported, that’s what’s important—keeping our schools together, keeping our communities together,” said Alexis Fruge, whose child is in third grade.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said his agency has been improving security on campuses.
“The biggest upgrade we added this year is there’s actually trauma kits in every school, throughout the school. God forbid we have that active shooter, when seconds count in that emergency situation, we are prepared, we are ready,” Chronister said.
The sheriff said the agency only has nine crossing guard vacancies entering the school year.
Ayers said the district is actively recruiting teachers and bus drivers. You can learn more about the open positions on the school district’s website.