The Pasco County School Board voted Tuesday to change bell times as a response to its bus driver shortage.

What You Need To Know

School board members said they have listened to concerns that have come their way. Other solutions and ideas are being talked about, but the board agreed that changing bell times seems to be the only option right now.

New school start times would be 7:10 a.m., 8:10 a.m., 9:10 a.m., and 10:10 a.m.

“There’s nobody in this district that likes this plan, including the superintendent,” said Superintendent Kurt Browning at the meeting. “I don’t like it. I don’t like anything about it. But I equally dislike having kids miss instructional time before the great teachers we have in this district.”

The change is for this school year - taking effect in January - and will be reassessed before the 2022-23 school year.

Paul R. Smith Middle School, Anclote High School, and Hudson Academy figure to see the largest shifts, with each beginning their days more than an hour earlier.

At a recent school board workshop, officials said on a typical day, the district is short 59 regular drivers. When it comes to relief drivers, there are 40 filled positions and 37 vacancies. As for absenteeism, an average day can see 61 drivers out, and this can be even worse with COVID.

According to the district, students have faced long waits at the bus stop, crowded conditions on board, and, in some schools, it's become normal for buses to be so late that students miss the entire first period. Officials said thousands of children are impacted everyday. 

The district has tried several strategies to remedy the bus driver situation like financial incentives, pay increases, and job fairs.

The strategies have helped but have not solved the problem.