MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) — Thousands of students across Manatee County were excited and eager to head back to school Wednesday. Over the summer, district officials spent a lot of time planning to ensure everything ran smoothly.

Despite worker shortages much of our local school districts continue to face, Manatee County Superintendent Cynthia Saunders said all classrooms and school buses were staffed Wednesday morning.

The district is about 50 teachers short this year, but support staff were on hand to help fill gaps on day one.

“We do have some support teachers that we hire extra to do a small group and intervention situations as well as a specialized curriculum folks that we have kind of put in those classrooms right now until we can see what everything levels out at,” Saunders said. “With the ten-day count, we will know if we are really needing to hire more or if we are needing to shift and adjust our existing personnel. I really feel that we are in a pretty decent place when you look state wide and nationwide, there is just a shortage of so many employees. I would say in the grand scheme of things, 50 is not terrible.”

As for bus drivers, the district is still looking for about 15 more. Dark and early Wednesday morning, school leaders sent off drivers with a warm goodbye as they hit their routes.

“We were able to cover all of our routes for the first time. These are kind of extra and subs because we hired a company to redo all of our routes. This year, we are not able to do choice and hardship transportation and by eliminating that and just starting from scratch and redoing our routes, we are in a better position to cover the existing transportation needs,” Saunders said. “Today we were transporting about 16,000 students that rely on buses to get them to and from.”

District officials said they will continue working to recruit more employees to avoid any disruption to their students’ education.