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Today: Hundreds of school buses hit area roads as Hillsborough, Pinellas practice for the real thing

Hundreds of school buses will be roaring to life Wednesday as drivers run practice routes in preparation for the start of classes in the area's two largest school districts, Hillsborough and Pinellas. The first day of school is Thursday in those two counties and Monday in Pasco and Hernando counties. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times]
Hundreds of school buses will be roaring to life Wednesday as drivers run practice routes in preparation for the start of classes in the area's two largest school districts, Hillsborough and Pinellas. The first day of school is Thursday in those two counties and Monday in Pasco and Hernando counties. [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]
Published Aug. 8, 2017

It's the annual ritual that signals summer vacation is pretty much over.

More than 1,000 school buses will be on Tampa Bay area roads Wednesday morning and afternoon in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties even though public school classes do not begin until Thursday.

At last count, Hillsborough has 973 buses on the road, not including spares, and Pinellas 450.

BACK TO SCHOOL 2017: A Times special report

The drivers take their buses out on trial runs for a number of reasons, district officials said.

The trips give new drivers, or transferred drivers, a chance to learn their routes. And they can make adjustments if conditions have changed because of construction projects or other issues.

Pinellas drivers performed practice runs on Tuesday as well, but without adhering as strictly to the schedules.

School begins Monday in Pasco and Hernando counties.