POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Polk County Public Schools is still plagued by a bus driver shortage — it’s short 28 drivers.
- District says cuts to bus transportation would save them around $130,000
- They're short 28 bus drivers
- RELATED STORY: Bus driver shortages still challenge Bay area school districts
The shortage has the district looking at ways to make cuts.
Next school year, the district’s Transportation Department proposes cutting bus transportation for nearly 1,192 students who live within two miles of their school — 406 of those are elementary school students.
Elementary School parent Jennifer Gunter dislikes the proposal.
“I feel like it’s going to risk the safety of children that normally have not had to walk to school who are going to newly have to walk to school. Especially kindergarteners, first graders,” Gunter said.
If put into place it would force her 6-year-old to walk to school, because she and her husband are unable to take her.
Her daughter’s school, Wendell Wilson Elementary, is one of the school district’s staff is looking at closely.
During a recent meeting staff said it would be safe for students in nearby neighborhoods to walk to that school. Gunter disagrees and said the road to the school from her house doesn’t have sidewalks.
“From my house it would be a probably 20 minute walk for her going down a busy road. There’s people that speed going down that road. There’s multiple people over the years who have missed that corner and crashed into the brick walk at Hampton Chase,” Gunter explained.
Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Rob Davis said reducing bus routes would improve bus driver’s ability to get students to school on time, and decrease number of students on buses which would help with disciplinary issues. During a recent work session with school board members, he said students are currently riding three to a seat.
The proposed changes would not affect Pre-K students and those with IEPs.
The district is also considering cutting bus service to the 12 Polk County Charter schools whose students still use district buses. That would impact around 350 students. Those schools would be allowed to take the district’s surplus buses. They would have to hire their own school bus drivers.
According to Davis, state statute doesn’t require the district to provide transportation for students living within two miles of their school or those enrolled in charter schools.
He projects the proposed changes would save the district around $130,000.
The proposed cuts do not need the approval of the school board. District staff is still researching its options. If changes are made, parents whose children would be affected will be notified, according to the district, as well as charter schools.