"We really won't have a good total until they come to bid on the routes." said Rick McBride, manager of transportation services. "But we'll probably be 75 to 100 drivers short."
That's despite the expectation that enrollment will dip about 2,000 students from last year. What's up? Bill Angelus, chief steward for the bus drivers union, blames the chronic shortage on low pay and the fact that most drivers work only three-quarters of the year.
If the shortage remains, McBride said, drivers will have to double up on routes. That means some buses could run as much as a half hour late both in delivering children to school and bringing them home.
Next year could bring some welcome relief to this recurring problem. The district expects as much as a $16-million reduction in transportation costs once a new student assignment plan is implemented in 2008. As a result, the district will not have as many bus routes and, you guessed it, the district won't need as many drivers. (No layoffs are expected then, by the way.)
- Donna Winchester, Pinellas education reporter