Pinellas school bus driver shortage sparks parent complaints

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Guido Rodriguez tells us his stepson has a recurring problem trying to get to his first period class at Tyrone Middle School. 

“No bus shows up,” Rodriguez said. “Yesterday, I had to take him to school again and this is like the third time in two weeks.”

It turns out Rodriguez’s complaint is part of a much bigger problem for the Pinellas School District. Transportation angers are suffering through the worst school bus driver shortage in years and that’s causing a lot of late bus pickups countywide, according to District Spokeswoman Lisa Wolf.

“We’re getting a lot of calls to our call center and that’s because we do have a lot of bus delays at the moment,” Wolf told 8 on Your Side.

Maybe so, but in the meantime, Rodriguez insists his stepson’s first period English grade has dropped from a B to a D due to the ongoing bus problems that force him to show up late for class time and time again.

Two weeks ago, there was another problem.

His son accepted a ride from a relative stranger when the bus didn’t show up again.

“He claims that it’s a parent of a friend of his from class, but you just don’t know,” Rodriguez said.

Wolf says the district is making a big push to recruit and retain drivers and has one person on staff whose only responsibility is to do just that. She says the district has attended 20 job fairs, pays drivers better than surrounding counties and even pays trainees before they actually go out on regular runs.

Wolf urges anyone who is interested to log onto the district website for details.

“We’re asking for parents’ patience and to let them know we’re working as fast as humanly possible to address this concern.”

Wolf says there are 25 trainees in the pipeline and 15 people in the hiring stage.

Maybe so, but Guido Rodriguez is still waiting for results and wondering why he keeps getting the runaround when he calls to complain.

“They seem to be passing the buck. They say you have to call so and so, it’s somebody else’s problem,” he said.

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