PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WLFA) — A nationwide bus shortage is impacting almost every Tampa Bay area district forcing them to look for creative solutions, including contacting the National Guard.
“If you take into account anybody who is just out for the day or out on a long-term leave, it leaves us with almost 90 positions that we’re trying to cover every day, and no one to cover,” said Betsy Kuhn, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services with Pasco County Schools. “Kids are getting to school very late and they’re missing a lot of important structural minutes.”
The Pasco County Schools District reached out to the National Guard through their local Emergency Operations Center to try to alleviate their bus driver shortage.
The request was denied by the EOC because there is not a state emergency that would trigger an activation of the National Guard. It is unknown if Gov. Ron DeSantis would issue a state emergency order.
“I read an article about the National Guard coming in to drive buses in Massachusetts. Turns out, other states are looking at it too, and I thought well it’s a way out there idea, but anything is on the table,” said Kuhn.
Leaders in Pasco County have also discussed changing school start times in hopes of maximizing the number of bus drivers available in making sure students spend enough time in the classroom.
“We can spread the drivers out and use fewer drivers to carry the same number of kids. It’s an unfortunate place that we find ourselves and nobody is happy about it including this superintendent,” Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning said.
Under the proposed plan, the district would implement a four-tier plan with schools starting at 7:10, 8:10, 9:10 and 10:10 respectively.
The Pasco County School Board will allow public comment on the matter during their regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 2.
If approved the schedule changes won’t go into effect until January.