With the start of another school year about a month away, school district officials in Central Florida say they are doing what they can to entice people to come work for them.

And it’s not just teachers they lack.

What You Need To Know

  • Orange County Public Schools is looking to hire about 100 bus drivers

  • The district is now offering between $16.65-$19.98 an hour and a $1,500 sign-on bonus

  • Many districts officials say they do offer bus drivers benefits 

With more than 200 positions empty across Central Florida school districts, bus drivers are also desperately needed.

Orange County Public Schools is looking to hire about 100 drivers, but in the eight other surrounding Central Florida counties, about 140 more drivers are needed.

It’s a competitive market, and some district officials are really thinking outside the box to get the drivers hired.

Applying to be a bus driver Wednesday, Joe Marcellus had the kind of smile a parent would probably want to see behind the wheel of a school bus.

The former Connecticut school bus driver was one of 28 applicants at an OCPS Transportation Job Fair. 

“When November becomes December, January, February, it snows,” Marcelus said of his decision to leave the northeast. “Cold, you don’t want to be there, you want to be here.”

To attract Marcellus and others like him, OCPS is offering a $1,500 new hire sign-on bonus, and officials say they have increased the average hourly wage this coming school year for bus drivers by about $4 an hour.

“Every county in the state of Florida has raised their rates,” OCPS human resources manager Carlyn Harris said. “So in order for us to be competitive, we had to raise our rates as well.” 

Over in Seminole County, the hourly wage for a school bus driver increased $2 an hour a year ago. This year, district officials seem to be thinking outside the box.

“We partner with different entities like CareerSource,” Seminole County Public Schools director of transportation, Stan McKinzie, said. “Also, one of the things we are doing in this district is, we have actually hired five of our old employees back this year. Employees that were retired.”

More than 200 school bus drivers are needed between Orange, Seminole, Brevard, and Volusia counties.

And each one is trying to find a driver like Marcellus.

“Driving a school bus is fun,” he said with a smile. “It is like you are helping the community.”

Many districts also offer benefits for bus drivers, and the going rate for a driver in Central Florida is anywhere from around $15-$20 an hour.