Driver shortages are forcing schedule changes at several Sarasota schools

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) – A bus driver shortage is prompting the Sarasota County School District to change start and finish times at several schools, beginning this fall.

The lack of drivers has meant that students are often late for school and home at the end of the day.

The school board voted 3-2 at its May 17 meeting to accept the recommendations of the district transportation staff. The adjusted times give existing drivers time to drive their routes.

Assistant Superintendent Jody Dumas described the district’s staffing issues as “a perfect storm” in dealing with COVID and a statewide driver shortage. He credited his staff for using creative thinking to make things work. “We’ve been trying to split tracks, consolidate tracks, anything we can to drive as efficiently as possible with the drivers we have,” he said. “Despite recruitment efforts, we are still unable to hire drivers. It’s just not enough. We have to look for alternatives.”

Dumas said the new bell schedules change, about 15 minutes on average. “These chime times, while inconvenient, will help us use buses more effectively and help us with the bus driver shortage that we hope will end sooner rather than later,” Dumas told the school board.

Board Members Karen Rose and Vice-Chairman Tom Edwards cast dissenting votes.

Edwards questioned the need for the bell changes. “We haven’t heard any real complaints,” said parents and students, who showed understanding for buses that are often late for school and late for home. However, he has received a large number of emails raising concerns about the schedule changes.

While Edwards said he appreciated the staff’s efforts, he would vote no. “I cannot support the bell changes. I think it’s too much to understand that our families have been accommodating and understand what we’re dealing with,” he said.

Superintendent Brennen Asplen said the lost educational time when students are late for school is unacceptable. “Students might miss 15, 20, 25 minutes a day. We don’t want that to happen.”

The changes are:

SCHOOL CURRENT RING TIME SUGGESTED BELL TIME
ASHTON 8:00 a.m. – 2:45 p.m 8:15 a.m. – 3:00 p.m
BAY HARBOUR 9:15 a.m. – 4:00 p.m 9:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m
GARDEN ELEMENTARY 8:15 a.m. – 3:00 p.m 8:30 a.m. – 3:15 p.m
LAKE VIEW ELEMENTARY 8:15 a.m. – 3:00 p.m 8:30 a.m. – 3:15 p.m
OAK PARK SCHOOL 9:15 a.m. – 4:00 p.m 9:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m
PINE VIEW 7:21 a.m. – 1:58 p.m
9:15 a.m. – 3:52 p.m
7:36 am – 2:13 pm
9:30 a.m. – 4:07 p.m
SARASOTA ACADEMY OF ARTS 8 a.m. – 4 p.m 8:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m
ARTS AND SCIENCES OF THE SARASOTA SCHOOL 9:00 a.m. – 3:50 p.m 9:20 a.m. – 4:15 p.m
STUDENT LEADERSHIP ACADEMY 7:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m 7:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m
SARASOTA MILITARY PREPARATION 9:05 a.m. – 4:15 p.m 9:15 a.m. – 4:15 p.m

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