ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Some Orange County parents say their children are sometimes forced to wait hours to get picked up or dropped off from school because of a bus driver shortage. 

What You Need To Know

  • Orange County is experiencing a shortage of school bus drivers

  • Parents say their children have waited hours to be picked up or dropped off

  • Orange County Public Schools officials say the district is currently short 100 drivers

Sarah Hibbs and her middle school daughter walk to school most days despite the sidewalks on Avalon Road being in poor condition. 

They do it because this school year it’s been either walk, drive or wait sometimes more than an hour for a school bus. 

“We got a call this morning from the middle school telling us that they’re very sorry and that there’s going to be delays," Hibbs said. "It’s not because of the school or anything that they’re doing. It's straight from transportation and the bus department where there’s a bus driver shortage, and our drivers are having to run two and three routes."

Orange County Public Schools says it's short 100 bus drivers — 22 of those open positions have left routes without a driver altogether. 

Because of the shortage, drivers have been making multiple trips to pick up all the kids.

“They’re getting picked up an hour late, getting home after 5. It’s bad,” Hibbs said.  

Michelle Logel says her son has sometimes gotten home more than two hours late from school, despite living close by.  

“To be less than two miles to take two hours, it’s just unreasonable,” Logel said. 

Both Hibbs and Logel say living within two miles they wouldn’t mind their children walking or biking to school if Avalon Road felt safer. 

In it’s current state — part of the sidewalk is closed. The other side goes through a construction zone. Crosswalk signals at Avalon and Waterway Passage Drive aren’t working, and there are no crossing guards — they don't see that as an option.

“Our bus drivers are stressed beyond limits," said Ron Pollard, president of the union representing Orange County’s bus drivers.

He said drivers are having to pick and choose which kids to pick up, and which ones to leave behind until they can come back. 

Pollard says the shortage comes down to pay.

Private sector Commercial Driver License jobs typically pay anywhere from $15 to $18 an hour. 

Starting pay as a school bus driver in Orange County, though, is $13.50 an hour.

“Until we can compete with the private sector, the schools are always gonna be shorthanded,” Pollard said.  

The district is now offering a $500 sign-on bonus for new drivers. 

But Pollard says that likely won’t solve the problem when they can still make $3,000 to $5,000 more a year with a CDL. 

That situation makes parents worry the delays and dangerous sidewalk crossings, will only continue. 

“If this is a continuing trend, I don’t see it getting any better,” Logel said. 

Pollard said the union is working with the district to compensate drivers who pick up extra routes. 

But he said the fundamental issue of shortages still won’t be solved until base pay is increased. 

That is something district officials say won’t happen until more money is given to them for driver salaries from Tallahassee.

Pollard is urging concerned parents to reach out to local and state representatives and ask them to provide more funds for drivers.