Osceola County deals with teacher, bus driver shortages as students return to class

Osceola Public School Superintendent Dr. Debra Pace was waiving to bus drivers as they took off from the district transportation center early Wednesday morning.

"We are going to pick up every child who is ready to come to school today. We want to remind parents how important daily attendance is," she said.

With the district experiencing school bus driver shortages, she tried to reassure parents that kids would be picked up even if buses were running late.

"We teamed up with a private vendor, School District Services, and they are really making a huge difference for us. Even when you talk about a handful of runs it makes all the difference in the world for us in terms of timing, getting those students safely to school and delivered home in the afternoon," said Director of Transportation Arby Creach.

He says even with about 20 open bus driver positions, they have been working to add bus attendants on every bus, a first in the state.

"When you can add an additional adult on that bus with the driver, the driver can focus on driving the bus and the student can focus on student management," said Creach.

Osceola County is also dealing with teacher shortages.

"I believe yesterday we were at 157," Dr. Pace said about open teacher positions. "Which still sounds like a lot, but some of those positions are non-classroom positions, and so we are relying on some of our academic coaches, our district research teachers, it will be all hands on deck for the next few days to make sure we are able to serve our students."

The district is turning to the outside, using an international staffing agency to recruit certified teachers from across the world.

"Using some international contracts, a couple of those teachers are going to be about two weeks late from the start of the year because we are still waiting for final visa applications," said Dr. Pace.

The district is having another bus driver hiring fair on August 30.