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Pasco County Schools looks for solutions to bus driver shortage

The superintendent said the district didn't qualify because there's not an official state of emergency.

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A nationwide school bus driver shortage has impacted the Tampa Bay area in a big way. Just about every school district is in need of drivers and it's causing students to spend longer time on the bus and sometimes show up to school late.

Earlier this week, Pasco County Schools announced a change to school start and dismissal times to accommodate the shortage.

Superintendent Kurt Browning said students were showing up to class late day after day. 

"We got to make sure our kids are in school on time ready to learn," Browning said.

The new schedule has some schools starting as late as 10:10 a.m. with a dismissal time of 4:20 p.m.

The drastic measure was a last resort according to Browning, who even requested help from the National Guard.

"My understanding is the National Guard only comes in when there’s a state of emergency. I think there’s an emergency but not an 'official declared' state of emergency," Browning added.

A spokesperson with the district said Pasco County Schools requested assistance from the National Guard through their local Emergency Operations Center and someone with the EOC explained why this situation did not qualify.

10 Tampa Bay reached out to the Florida Department of Education and the governor's office about the shortage and whether the state is considering activating the National Guard. So far, a spokesperson with the Department of Education said the request never reached their office.

Right now, 177 National Guard troops were activated in Massachusetts to drive school buses due to their shortage.

When to call the National Guard

The National Guard steps in to assist our country in a variety of ways and take on missions all around the globe.

The request for assistance usually comes from state governors.

Major Matt Murphy, a spokesperson with the National Guard provided some examples of current missions:

  • Roughly 13,000 troops are helping with COVID operations across the country, including vaccine and testing sites.
  • A group of twenty troops is in Indiana helping with Afghanistan refugee efforts.
  • Fifty others are still helping as Louisiana recovers from Hurricane Ida.
  • Roughly 300 troops are in California and Wyoming as they fight wildfires.