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Pasco County Schools works to address bus driver shortage by eliminating routes

Next year, high schoolers and middle schoolers located within two miles of their school will need to find a different form of transportation.

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — In an effort to address a bus driver shortage, Pasco County Schools is eliminating courtesy bus routes, also referred to as "unfunded routes."

This will impact about 3,000 students, the school system says. Next school year, high schools and middle schools located within two miles of their school will need to find a different form of transportation to school. District officials said that could include carpooling, walking or biking.

There are exceptions for some students who live near an interstate or dangerous road. They can be approved for a bus pass on a case-to-case basis.

District officials explained a Florida rule that says routes that are within two miles of a middle or high school aren’t funded.

“The bottom line is we don’t get any funding for the kids who live in a 2-mile radius,” the spokesman for Pasco County Schools, Steve Hegarty, said.

Hegarty explained that eliminating these routes can help with the bus driver shortage. Currently, the district is short about 54 drivers. There are a total of 354 drivers in the district.

Hegarty said that with the shortage and drivers calling in sick, it’s been a challenge to get kids to school on time.

“Just about everything we’re doing that involves the school buses is tied to the school bus driver shortage,” Hegarty stated.

Some parents are concerned for students who could run into an issue of lack of sidewalks.

“I don’t see how kids could walk across a main highway and Centennial Road with no sidewalks. It’s not safe,” a parent, Brenna Medland, said.

RELATED: Pasco County Schools ending 'unfunded riders' busing as driver shortage persists

District officials said county officials are the ones who implement sidewalk plans. The district said it does listen to those safety concerns and advocates for sidewalks.

“We have heard and are well aware that there are some sidewalks that end before children can get to school. We work with the county all the time to put sidewalks in for students,” Hegarty explained.

Hegarty said the district has heard from parents who are unhappy, but ultimately, he said this is the best way to address the ongoing shortage of bus drivers in Pasco County.

“Cutting out courtesy busing, never an easy thing to do, does not make parents happy, but other school districts have done this as well,” Hegarty said.

Hillsborough County School Public Schools eliminated its courtesy bus routes back in 2016.

The changes in Pasco County will go into effect next school year for about 3,000 students in middle school and high school. The district said parents were notified ahead of time so they can make a plan.

District officials will meet Tuesday and anticipate this could be brought up.

RELATED: Pasco County schools adjust bell schedules for start of 2022 semester

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