MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – We know the start of any school year can be stressful enough. But when you add in the concerns about COVID-19, and now, new concerns over a nationwide bus driver shortage, it’s caused many parents to scramble to make some last minute back-up plans as kids throughout Miami-Dade County head back to class.
“With very few exceptions, students will be picked up and delivered to the school on time,” Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said. “We expect very few incidents of significant delays, other than the usual that we see in South Florida.”
The superintendent met with drivers Monday morning as they reported to work at the county bus depot in northwest Miami-Dade.
According to the head of their union, more than 100 bus driver positions were still unfilled as of late last week, causing officials to make some last minute adjustments over the weekend.
“We figured out we can add more runs to the routes, and also we can add more time to the drivers’ pay,” Phyllis LeFlore said.
LeFlore is the head of the union for all non-instructional workers, including bus drivers.
She says by adding an extra hour to their scheduled work times, they’re hoping to avoid any major first-day delays.
“That gives the bus drivers more flexibility to do more runs, so they would be able to add more schools into the runs,” LeFlore said.
The issue follows a nationwide trend, in which many bus drivers have either been leaving or retiring early.
As a result, some parents and even some staff members in the district say they were advised late Sunday to have a backup plan in place just in case there were transportation issues.
But after contracting with some private companies over the weekend, the superintendent said they are now closer to their normal staffing levels.
“As of last night, we were pretty closed to being fully staffed, which is comparable to where we’ve been in previous years,” Carvalho said.