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Education

Bus drivers speak out about too few drivers and safety issues in Lee County

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Pixabay
School Bus sitting idle

Many drivers made their voices heard during the public comment period of Tuesday night’s school district’s regular board meeting, even though it wasn’t on the agenda. The public comments period lasted well over an hour with bus drivers telling board members about the long hours, poor pay, and safety issues.

The school bus situation in Lee County continues to be a problem. Many drivers made their voices heard during the public comment period of Tuesday night’s school district’s regular board meeting, even though it wasn’t on the agenda.

The public comments period lasted well over an hour with bus drivers telling board members about the long hours, poor pay, and safety issues.

Pebbles Pool works with Lee County Transportation. She expressed her worry about the driver shortage.

“Everyone knows that there’s a shortage of bus drivers. We were given 5 to 6 routes to do,” Pool said. “We get kids to school safe, back home safe. We deserve a raise.”

The school district saw a mass walk-out shortly after school started in August. The district has been advertising for more drivers, which pays 15 dollars an hour, about five dollars less than nearby cities like Tampa, according to the Economic Research Institute.

Robert Davis, another driver for Lee County schools, urged the board for better pay.

“Our drivers need to be paid,” he said. “We carry the most precious cargo in the world: your children. You should think about that. Show the drivers the respect that they need.”

Coronavirus concerns cropped up when Carol Hardy stepped up to the mic.

“Parents are screaming at us saying we don’t need to put masks on our children. Our drivers are dying because they don't have to put masks on their children. We need masks,” said Hardy. “Kill us off, and your kids won’t get to school.”

Many drivers referenced Jay Figueroa, a school bus driver for The School District of Lee County who lost his battle against COVID-19 after weeks in the hospital.

It’s a concern echoed by another driver, Elijah Scurry.

“We are being worked countless hours without downtime because the drivers are quarantined and can’t come to work… and they're giving us no time to sanitize our bus,” Scurry said.

The drivers assured the school board that they will be back at the next meeting to address this issue.

“You just saw a few of us this time… get ready for the next meeting,” Davis said.