Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon reported that staff shortages in classrooms, custodial and transportation are forcing the district to come up with an emergency solution.
At the Tuesday night School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) meeting she asked for patience and acknowledged that parents and students are “frustrated with buses being delayed.”
According to the SBAC COVID-19 Dashboard, 158 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days.
On Wednesday, ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson said that out of the 130 bus drivers in the county, 30 drivers were out and 22 of them were absent due to COVID-19.
“We were already about 20 drivers short of where we’d like to be,” she said and referred to Alachua being part of the nationwide bus driver shortage that existed even before the pandemic.
Johnson reported that ACPS, “Had 20 late buses this morning. The typical late bus count pre-COVID was eight to 10, so clearly COVID is having an impact. That’s why we let families know as numbers started to climb that operations were likely to be affected.”
Late bus alerts go out each morning and can be accessed on the school district website as well.
Johnson said some bus drivers are taking on additional routes, “As are office staff who are certified bus drivers.”
“We also have ‘substitute’ drivers who are regular employees and are scheduled to work every day to fill in for drivers who are absent.”
A majority of the late bus list marks them as being 90 minutes or longer or even as “no driver.”
“We would suggest that when a bus is listed as being 90 minutes late or longer, the parent should plan on arranging alternate transportation,” Johnson said.
Simon suggested parents not receiving late bus notices double check that their contact information is correct in the Skyward system.
“This has really taken a toll on our staff,” she said. “It’s complicated when our staff is sick at the same time.”
Signs posted throughout Alachua County state, “HIRING! School Bus Driver, Bus Attendant, paid training and benefits.”
Every Wednesday, interviews are held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Transportation Depot, 1800 SE Hawthorne Rd. in Gainesville. For more information, the notice states to call Brenda Williams at 352-955-7602.
To apply online click on the link to the SBAC jobs listing.