LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Lee County School District serves thousands of students and with the bus driver shortage major delays have been anticipated this school year.
With the first week back now behind us, the district is looking ahead to get students to school on time.
"They’ve got five stars from me, so far, this year. And hopefully it’ll keep going.”
It’s a glowing review as Lee County school buses are arriving on-time.
“Our bus driver is amazing," said Becky Cunningham, a mother of two children in Lee County Schools. "She has apologized for being late on the first day and has reassured us that she will be our bus driver for the whole school year this year. But all of the kids have gotten to school on time, at home on time within ten minutes of the time frame that they told us the kids would be getting picked up and dropped back off again.”
But something that was not entirely expected this school year. It’s been no secret the district has been struggling with hiring and keeping school bus drivers.
The last time we checked with Lee County School District officials, they told us the district had 595 drivers on staff. But Lee County still needs 729 drivers to operate at maximum efficiency.
About 90,000 students were transported on the first day of school last week. The district says there were delays but significantly less than what they were expecting.
“They’re pretty on point, but it’s been around 10 minutes at the most that they’ve been late,” said Paula Arboleda, a mother of two children in Lee County schools.
It’s a trend being noticed by parents like Paula Arboleda. A vast difference to what it was like last year.
“For the high school, it’s been pretty good- it’s always on time," said Arboleda. "But for middle school, sometimes it takes one hour to an hour and fifteen (minutes) last year. It was terrible, so bad, very bad.”
Lee County schools says there were no delays or complaints about buses Friday morning. But they are asking parents to be patient with them this year.
They are advising parents to download the phone app ‘Where’s The Bus’ to track their child’s bus route. Parents can also sign up for ‘School Messenger’ where they can receive text messages and emails for bus route information.
“That helps me to know if I’m going to be late so I can plan ahead on what to do if they’re going to be late," said Arboleda. "So it’s amazing.”
“This year I’ve been kind of following it when I’m at work to see when the kids are getting home and also when I’m at work to see when the kids are getting to school," said Cunningham. "I just love the bus app.”
In the meantime, both moms are hopeful the on-time trend continues throughout the school year.
“Hopefully it’s going to keep being the same as this week,” said Arboleda.
Said Cunningham, "If we can keep going like we’ve been this past week, I’ll be a happy little camper for the rest of the school year."