BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County Public Schools saw a smoother start to the 2019 – 2020 school year compared to the year prior.
Last year, bus delays peaked at two hours on the first day of school.
“This year we’re running an average of about 30 minutes,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd.
Byrd credits a few changes for the improvements.
Polk County Public Schools opened a call center earlier this month to answer questions from parents and address concerns.
Last year, the school district received 25,000 calls in the first week of school.
As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, the call center received 3,354 calls on the first day of school.
More than 5,000 calls came in last week.
The system can locate a student’s bus through GPS and the call center worker can update parents on the bus’ whereabouts.
“The call center is so fantastic and I’m already telling everyone we’re going to do it annually,” said Byrd.
It will remain open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Aug. 23 at (863) 534-7300.
Polk’s bus driver shortage problem has also improved, according to Byrd.
On the first day of school in 2018, there were 70 vacancies. As of Monday, there were only 25 bus driver vacancies.
“We have 20 that are currently in training. If everything goes well, they pass all their assessments and tests next week, we should have those drivers on the road and that means we’ll be a lot better. We’ll probably be down five,” said Byrd.
Polk County Public Schools also reconfigured some of the approximately 1,400 routes to “better serve the community,” Byrd said.
Byrd asks parents to be patient as drivers work out the kinks for the next week or two.