School bus driver shortage forces Pasco board members to adjust bell times

Pasco County

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Dustin Alsey is one of a handful of parents who showed up at Tuesday’s Pasco County School Board meeting to discuss his concerns with the school bell schedule shift.

He and his wife, who is a Pasco public school teacher, have three kids. He’s worried about the time lapse between when his wife goes to school and when his kids do. He believes other parents may be in similar or worse shape.

“What this is going to do, is this is going to put my family and many families on my block at risk,” Alsey told school board members. He asked if they had explored other options. “Pay teachers for enrichment to open their classrooms early. We would drive our kids to school.”

But school district officials claim they have explored just about every option.

School district assistant superintendent Betsy Kuhn says they explored options she never dreamed they would explore.

“We looked at the national guard to assist us,” Kuhn said. “If you would have asked me a year ago if we had contacted emergency management to send in national guard troops to drive our school buses, I would have never believed that in a million years.”

But the problem is in the numbers. There are not enough drivers for the number of routes on a three bell system district-wide.

The district’s solution — develop a four bell system to spread the workload over the number of drivers. The first bell would ring at 7:10 a.m. and the last bell would ring at 10:10 a.m.

Every student in the district will have a different start time, some will report to class earlier, some later. Most will shift about 30 minutes, but a handful will shift more than an hour.

Superintendent Kurt Browning says it is an imperfect solution to a problem that he doesn’t see going away.

“Nobody in this district likes this plan, including this superintendent,” Browning said. “But I also equally dislike having kids come to school and miss instructional time.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the shift change. Superintendent Browning says if the driver shortage resolves itself by the end of the 2021-2022 school year, board members can revisit the plan for the next school year.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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