LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Nearly 50,000 kids will get on the bus every day to head to Lee County Schools.
But more than 2,000 of them will likely be late, due to a shortage of school bus drivers.
“That’s an unacceptable metric for a school district,” said Dr. Christopher Bernier, Superintendent of the School District of Lee County.
“And we have to work harder and better at that.”
The school district has 590 drivers leaving them with 139 vacancies.
Transportation leaders have cut the number of routes, making them longer, to 664.
Meaning the district is still 69 drivers short.
While the bus driver shortage may be a nationwide problem, in Southwest Florida, it appears to be specific to Lee County.
Both Charlotte and Collier County School Districts tell Fox 4 Investigates they have enough drivers for all of their routes.
“I think we’ve been behind in terms of, not only how we’ve paid our bus drivers, but the culture of transportation,” said Bernier.
As far as the pay issue, the district increased the starting pay for bus drivers to $17.50 an hour.
That’s the fourth highest starting pay rate for school bus drivers in the state.
Despite that, the district lost five drivers in the month of July.
District leaders say many of the drivers who quit, do so to take year-round driving jobs.
Dr. Berneir says the district is also working to change the culture in the transportation department.
That includes supervisors undergoing management training to better communicate with drivers and staff.
“(Employees) want to know that their existence changes the purpose and they have value going home at night,” said Bernier.
“We have to get back to that in Lee County.”
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