LEE COUNTY — A Lee County parent tells us a shortage of bus drivers is leading to safety issues.
Her first-grader was left on a bus for almost three hours because she said the driver didn’t have time to check to make sure all the kids had been dropped off.
At the Lee County School District, 20 bus drivers quit the first week of school, and there are more than 100 driver positions open right now. While they work to fill those jobs, drivers are taking on multiple routes, and when that happens, small things can get overlooked.
In this case, Stephanie Mayer said that small thing was her daughter Zoey. Starting the first week of school, Mayer was shocked to learn how long it was taking Zoey to get home.
“Last year it was a 45 minute bus ride home, this year it’s an hour and a half," said Mayer.
Mayer said she believes that delay is because of the bus driver shortage, but on Monday, she said that shortage led to a bigger problem.
“They forgot her on the bus. They skipped her stop," said Mayer.
Mayer said, it wasn’t until Zoey was on a completely different route that she was discovered sleeping in a seat.
“Kids twice her age woke her up on a bus, and she was scared, she was crying, she was overwhelmed," said Mayer.
Mayer filmed the moment at 4:53 p.m. when the bus finally pulled up. Zoey gets out of school at Cape Coral Elementary at 2:10 p.m., so it had been almost three hours.
“It’s so hot on these buses. She’s covered in sweat, she’s dripping sweat. Her bangs are all sweaty," said Mayer.
On Tuesday, we learned kids aren’t the only thing being overlooked. At the school board meeting, several bus drivers spoke out about the problems with basic sanitation.
“We’re so short of drivers, we don’t have time enough to sanitize like we use to," said one bus driver.
“We’re doubling all these routes as bus drivers. Three, four, five schools a day. We don’t have time to clean our buses at all," said another driver.
“I thought they were sanitizing these buses in-between schools, you know I heard that. Obviously not," said Mayer.
We reached out to the School District, and it responded Thursday saying "We are doing all we can to advertise for, recruit and hire the more than 100 drivers we still need to be fully staffed. We have 15 potential new drivers in training right now."
Mayer said, she won’t be putting Zoey back on a bus until more drivers are hired, because she doesn’t feel like it’s safe.
"They’re skipping out on the little steps because they’re so overwhelmed which, as a person I understand that, but these are kids. This is your job is to make sure she gets home safely," said Mayer.
The District did tell us it plans to start making changes to some of the bus routes starting next week, and it’s hoping it can consolidate some of them to help with efficiency and to get kids home right when they’re supposed to.