CLEARWATER, Fla. — Parents say they have been forced to take time away from work, and some of their children have had their school schedules re-arranged, all due to a late Pinellas County school bus.
Now, parents of some Safety Harbor Middle School students say they have had enough.
The bus stop is only three miles from Safety Harbor Middle School, but some students say they have been hours late to school because the bus is late, and now their parents say they worry it’s affecting their education.
“We used to wait five minutes, then I don’t know what happened, we wait hours, and it’s not fair,” said Oakley Tiller, a student at Safety Harbor Middle School.
While patience isn’t necessarily something middle school kids are equipped with, the lesson in this case has been forced on them.
Corey Anderson, who has two sons who attend Safety Harbor Middle School, says the late school bus has been a real problem for all of them.
“It’s been very disruptive," Anderson said. "We have jobs — we have to leave our work to take the kids to school when the bus doesn’t come, we have to leave early from our jobs to take them home."
In the middle of Anderson's interview with Spectrum News, the bus arrived around 9:10 a.m. on Friday, which he says is surprising, because it was only about 15-20 minutes late. Usually it’s much more, he said.
“It can be more extreme than that," he said. "It’s a little late but today — they’ll at least make it on time, barely — but it’s been a lot worse than that."
Aside from the interruptions at work, Anderson says the late bus is impacting students’ education. Safety Harbor Middle even re-arranged some student schedules, moving core classes to later periods in the day to accommodate the late buses, but that isn’t enough, Anderson said.
He said the late bus has become a distraction to everyone.
“There’s so much school politics going on about a lot of ideological issues and it’s hard to pay attention to that stuff when you can’t reliably get your kids to school and home on a daily basis,” he said.
In response, the Pinellas County School District released the following statement:
Pinellas County Schools Transportation Department is making several adjustments for the 2023-2024 school year to increase efficiency in practices that have been affected by the national bus driver shortage. We are reducing the number of arterial “hub” stops for our middle and high school District Application Programs and combining bus routes across schools where capacity allows. Changes to arterial “hub” stops will be communicated to families in July.
The district also launched a school bus ridership campaign last month to help streamline our routing process. We’re asking eligible families to declare their transportation needs. Each year, over 36,000 eligible PCS students are routed for transportation, but only 22,000 actually ride. Families can make their selection in the Transportation Ridership Form in their parent portal. Visit https://www.pcsb.org/transportation for more information.