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Tampa Bay-area districts still looking for school bus drivers

With many still out of work because of the pandemic, there are a lot of hiring opportunities available. Across Tampa Bay, the need is great for bus drivers.

TAMPA, Fla. — Getting kids to and from school is quite the responsibility. Some students have no other way to get to class without the school bus.  

The issue is there may not be enough school bus drivers to get them there.

Across Tampa Bay, there is a dire need for bus drivers. At the start of summer, Hillsborough County Schools were short 180 bus drivers. Now, as classes begin, they still need to fill at least 100 bus driver positions. 

The district says many bus drivers retired last year shortly after the start of the pandemic. Starting pay is $14.57 an hour.

Pinellas County schools are looking to hire at least 45 bus drivers. Thirty are needed in Manatee County.

On Tuesday, Pasco County Schools says the district is short 78 regular drivers and 33 relief drivers.

There are openings in Sarasota, Polk, Hernando and Highlands counties, too.

Here's a roundup of several area school districts that are hiring bus drivers ahead of the upcoming school year:

All of the jobs offer an opportunity for benefits.

Kelly Horncastle, the supervisor of training for Hillsborough County Schools, says no prior experience is needed to become a driver.

“We do all the training and the testing and our facility," she said. "They can get everything they need within a two-week period."

If the need isn't met, the current drivers will have to make several routes and it could mean students being late for class as the school year starts.

"The message is the same every year, which is that on the first day — really, the first week — everyone needs to be patient," a spokesperson with Pasco County Schools said in a statement. "The only difference is that this year our bus driver shortage is larger than usual. And, of course, it's very little comfort knowing that other districts are in the same boat."