Back to School: Safety, Bus Driver Shortages

It's the first day of classes across the Tampa Bay area, and while school districts are dealing with teacher or bus staffing shortages, one thing no doubt on the minds of many parents is safety. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, speaking with Newsradio WFLA's Ryan Gorman, says they've got it covered.

"Uvalde is in the forefront of everyone's mind," Chronister said. "and I just want to re-assure everybody--our schools are the safest in the country. You can never say never, but there's not one more thing that I would ask the school district to provide that we don't have."

Up to now, a lot of attention has been paid to teacher or bus driver staffing shortages, but in Pinellas County, new Superintendent Kevin Hendrick says the district sponsored eight job fairs with the aim of hiring qualified drivers.

"We're in pretty good shape," Hendrick tells News Channel 8. "330-some routes to cover, and we have enough drivers to cover that. Yes, we increased pay, yes, we increased bonuses, but mostly letting folks know that what they do matters."

Hendrick said they still need to hire relief drivers. In Pasco County, the shortage is so severe that some middle and high school students are on their own when it comes to getting to class in the morning, and home in the afternoon.

The first day of school brings a warm forecast for two Hillsborough County schools, not on the outside but on the inside. Supply chain issues have delayed new A-C units for Turner-Bartels elementary and Buchanan Middle School. "We need to make sure we get the parts we need," said District Spokesperson Erin Maloney. "In the meantime, we make sure that we put chillers and air handlers in the area, so students and teachers are comfortable during the school day."

Parents at one of the affected schools expressed concern about the heat during an orientation event, when the chillers and air handlers weren't turned on.

photo: Getty Images

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