School Bus Shortage Causes a New Change in School Start Times


David Caine

A big change might be coming to Pasco County after Winter Break. There has been an ongoing problem that spans across a few different Florida counties, and the pandemic hasn’t helped the situation. Since the start of the pandemic, and now more than ever, there has been a significant shortage of bus drivers. This may not seem like a big problem at first, but this has many consequences. 


Because there aren’t as many bus drivers as there used to be, many buses are having to pick up many more stops than they used to, causing an influx of students on buses. This has caused an overcrowding of buses, and many of whom are packed, having to fit three people to a seat. Also because of all these new stops, students are getting to school later, and home later. Many kids have been getting to school an hour late, missing many important subjects. They are also getting home later, disrupting home life, and disallowing kids from participating in extracurricular activities. This has caused a huge problem for many teachers, parents, and of course, students, me included. 


Towards the beginning of the school year, I experienced this problem first-hand. There was one stop before ours, 2 and then two stops after ours. In the morning, it wasn’t that much of a problem, but we did have to fit two people to a seat. The afternoon is where the problems started. We started having to fit three people per seat, as there were just too many people on the bus. Because of all these stops, for the first two weeks, my bus was around ten minutes late to school, making me miss part of my math class. 


This problem started getting worse as the school year went on, and soon we had to change buses entirely. We got the short bus which, of course, led to more chaos, and now almost everybody had to squish three people to a seat. You were lucky if you could even find a seat, as if you were the last one on the bus, you would have to traverse through a sea of feet and backpacks sticking out in the walkway to maybe find a seat. It was starting to get ridiculous. Eventually, they solved this problem by taking the last two stops off, so our bus was left with two tops total.  


The National Guard was also called through the local Emergency Operation Center to help the situation. Betsy Kuhn, Assistant Superintendent for the Support Services with Pasco County Schools stated, “If you take into account anybody who is just out for the day or out on a long-term leave, it leaves us with almost 90 positions that we’re trying to cover every day, and no one to cover. Kids are getting to school very late and they’re missing a lot of important structural minutes.” The request was denied by the EOC, as it isn’t a state of emergency that would necessitate the bringing in of the National Guard. 


All of this has urged the school board to rethink the situation, and they may have come up with another solution: changing the start and end times of schools. This would maximize the number of bus drivers spread out for each school. “We can spread the drivers out and use fewer drivers to carry the same number of kids,” said Kurt Browning, Pasco County Superintendent. “It’s an unfortunate place that we find ourselves and nobody is happy about this, including this superintendent.” 


If this is approved, it would go into effect in January, after Winter Break. The district would be divided into four sections. Schools would start at 7:10, 8:10, 9:10, and 10:10. Cypress Creek High School would start at 7:10, only fifteen minutes before it originally started. 


Of course, just like any matter, there are people that are okay with this change in schedules, and some that aren’t. Among the people that aren’t is Pasco school bus driver Debbi Parker, who stated, “You’re going to lose bus drivers that have been with you because of the change in the time that you have, and they are going to lose the routes that they have worked to have.” She believes that this will cause an even bigger problem, and that lack of pay is another issue the numbers are so low. “Every time we talk to people about becoming bus drivers, they love the benefits, but then when they look at the pay, they say that’s not a living wage. In fact, all of you should be ashamed of yourselves, because a lot of your drivers have to go to food banks to survive.” 


There are also people that are okay with this change, many of them students. Many would appreciate the later start times, as it would give them more time to sleep. And for the ones starting earlier, that means that school would also end earlier, giving them more time to do homework and out-of-school activities. 


I personally don’t mind the change in the schedule, as it is only a fifteen-minute difference, but I know there are people who are upset about it, as the school will start earlier, meaning people would have to wake up earlier. As of November 2nd, the vote was approved and now Cypress Creek High School will start school at 7:10am and will release students at 1:32pm. This change will begin in the second semester of the 2021-2022 school year.