Our parents and families have faced a multitude of challenges as our community acclimates to the impacts of COVID-19. One of the more unexpected side effects of the worldwide pandemic has been a crippling labor shortage facing multiple industries across our nation. Our educational system has unfortunately not been immune to this development.
Parents in Hillsborough County Public Schools are keenly aware that this district is contending with a critical shortage of bus drivers. These hardworking and dedicated individuals are the backbone of our district, and without them our exceptional educators would not be able to change the lives of our learners.
However, it has always been a challenge to recruit and retain bus drivers. In fact, in other states this year, the National Guard has been called in to drive children to school because they simply do not have enough people to fill the positions.
Hillsborough County Public Schools is currently in need of approximately 130 bus drivers, which means those currently driving are performing double and triple runs to ensure students make it to school safely. Unfortunately, this creates angst for our learners and families as they experience delays both to and from school.
It is for this reason I made the recommendation to our school board to raise the hourly rate for our bus drivers from $14.57 to $16.04 per hour. This will represent one of the highest pay rates in the state for bus drivers, which we in turn anticipate will help to alleviate a shortage while recruiting and retaining more highly qualified individuals to transport our learners to and from school.
I want to remind our community that bus drivers have been on the front lines since the pandemic began. These talented and passionate individuals did not have the opportunity to work from home as they drove food and academic materials to families while our brick-and-mortar schools were closed. They deserve our respect and appreciation for the difficult work they have performed. This initiative will also impact veteran drivers who will receive a well-deserved raise from their current salaries.
This move will not only strengthen our transportation department; my hope is that your family will see a noticeable difference with time as we work diligently to combat these complex issues. Bus drivers are often the first smiling face a student encounters as their school day begins. We are excited to welcome new and highly qualified individuals to the HCPS family to make a difference in children’s lives every day.