School bus delays continue for Duval County students

More than a dozen Duval County school buses were behind schedule Tuesday with the longest delays being up to an hour.

For parents or students who want to get an idea of where their bus might be, you can take a look at the district’s website:

Most of the issues on the first day were on the Westside, the Northside, the urban core area, and middle schools. At the height of after-school delays, at least 70 routes were experiencing some type of delay.

Between the district’s two bus contractors — Durham School Services and Student Transportation of America — there are 130 vacancies out of 800 total positions. The district is still looking to cover 15 routes.

The district alerted parents Sunday to try to make alternate plans if they can or to stay with their kids at the bus stop and leave them with plenty of water because delays are expected and we’re once again dealing with excessive heat warnings.

All of this, the district says, coming after last week when drivers they expected to return, decided against it.

Bus driver shortages are happening nationwide. The district and its contractors agreed on adding incentives for recruitment, including a $3,000 sign on bonus and increased the hourly pay rate by $4 from $16 to $20 an hour.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Dana Kriznar addressed staff shortages and the impact it has on routes.

“We are very concerned about our buses and our contractors are working really hard to ensure that they make those pickups,” Kriznar said. “There may be some delays. We want to make sure our parents are aware of that and have a contingency plan.”

Angela Young has students attending different schools in Duval County and said the bus delays are adding to the stress of the new school year.

“Well, I’m a mother of five, so it affects it a lot to know that that’s not something that this kid is taken care of, but I gotta make a way,” Young said. “And the other kids go to different schools at different times, so it definitely affects a lot.”

If you are concerned about bus delays call 904-858-6200 from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. school days.

Driver shortages in Duval County aren’t new. Contract documents show that in October, STA acknowledged they hadn’t been able to hire enough people to cover their routes.

The school district also acknowledged fears about COVID-19 and “concerns amongst the workforce” impacted the availability of bus drivers and monitors.

Both sides agreed they needed to take action, agreeing to spend:

More than $200,000 for advertising$435,000 for return-to-work bonusesMore than $133,000 in retention incentives

However, these measures were only in place for the previous contract year, which ended July 31.

Parents like Young are hoping the bus schedules get ironed out soon.

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