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The student news site of Robinson High School

Knight Writers

The student news site of Robinson High School

Knight Writers

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ISSUE 1: Hillsborough County Continues to Experience Bus Shortages

Bus shortages are an ongoing issue in the Hillsborough County School District that harm both drivers and students.
School+bus+5306+awaiting+the+arrival+of+RHS+students+after+school.+
Photo Yesenia Rosario
School bus 5306 awaiting the arrival of RHS students after school.

For the past several years the Hillsborough County Schools Department of Education has had an issue with bus driver shortages, but this has become a much more serious issue since the rise of COVID-19.

“[Currently], HCPS transports over 85,000 students daily with 837 planned bus routes with only 587 bus drivers,” stated Laura Hill, General Manager of Transportation Services for Hillsborough County Schools. Hill oversees the daily operations of the HCPS Transportation Services Department.

This shortage will cause bus drivers to drive double routes for the 2023-2024 school year.

One of the many affected bus drivers is Glenn Siroys. Siroys has been driving buses for Hillsborough County for six years and has over 40 years of experience outside of the county. It’s safe to say that he has a lot of experience driving buses, but Siroys is being thrown off by the sudden introduction of double routes this year.

“This [the route] is normally one run [but this year] it’s a double run,” Siroys expressed. “It’s stressful driving a bus because you got so many children on the bus and got to make sure they’re safe all the time and it’s a lot of traffic.”

At Robinson, there are a total of three buses, half the number of buses there were last year. As a result, each bus is forced to take a double route. This causes students to arrive home late, even those who live close by.

Shokhina Afandikhonova (’24) expresses the changes she’s noticed in her routine as well as the bus route taking her double the time to arrive home despite living ten minutes from school.

“The timing and different routes we take every day [are different than last year]. It takes double the time to get home and it’s really frustrating,” Afandikhonova said. “The buses are so full to the point where you have to rush to the bus to get a seat because you’ll end up sitting on the floor until somebody leaves. I’m running late with everything and my homework is pushed back.”

However, Afandikhonova isn’t the only one. The students taking the hardest hit are those who live farther away.

Pranaav Rameshkumar (’24) has ridden the bus for three years at Robinson and describes his experience as a roller coaster. Rameshkumar resides in the Westchase area, so the hour car ride home on a good day turns into a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride with the multiple stops and routes it has to take. Rameshkumar expressed how these late arrivals have become detrimental to his academics and extracurriculars over the years.

“Going [home] late after the bus broke affected my academic schedule due to unpredictable delays and traffic. It was so hard for me in my junior year to plan things out effectively. I was crammed with everything and teachers decided to pummel us with homework and the bus was dragging and wasting my precious time,” Kumar said. “With the bus being late I had to miss most of my baseball practices, cultural performances and volunteer hours which are crucial for my IB diploma. Now I have to stay up past one or two [in the morning] to finish my daily work.” 

This shortage has arisen for many reasons including demographic changes, competing job opportunities, licensing requirements and workload and responsibilities.

Currently, most drivers are of the older demographic, nearing retirement age, so as many continue to retire there is an increasing need for young drivers. However, due to more appealing salaries, hours and benefits at competing driving jobs along with the responsibility of student safety and disciplining students, there has not been a rise in young drivers.

In an effort to stay competitive in the job market, HCPS is currently working on easing drivers’ pay by 16%, meaning starting pay would increase to $18.65 per hour. They also plan to launch recruitment campaigns to entice others to the job, reaching out to the community, local job fairs and digital platforms. 

Hill guarantees HCPS is committed to training their drivers, ensuring their comfortability in the role and providing support. HCPS acknowledges the importance of a flexible schedule and is willing to accommodate people’s needs.

“We are committed to providing comprehensive training and ongoing support for our bus drivers to help them feel confident and well-prepared in their roles,” Hill said. “We understand the importance of work-life balance and are exploring options for more flexible scheduling to accommodate the needs of potential drivers. We’re considering additional incentives and benefits to recognize the dedication of our current drivers and entice new drivers to join our team.

Both drivers and students alike are being affected by these shortages. Hill recommends that a way to solve this issue is to spread the word around. Applications to become a driver can be found on hillsboroughschools.org in the Department of Transportation section along with all bussing information.

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About the Contributor
Yesenia Rosario, News & Features Editor
Yesenia Rosario is a junior at Robinson and the News & Features Editor of  Knight Writers. This is her second year on staff and her first year as an editor.  Rosario has a deep fondness for the community that journalism has built for her, leading her to return to the staff for a second year.  "What brings me back is the community and the work, it’s very great. It’s very easy but fun at the same time," Rosario said.  Although busy with her academics, Rosario manages to find time for hobbies; she especially enjoys baking and being with friends. Rosario also appreciates a wide variety of media, particularly the essence of Jordan Peele's movies. Currently, “Coraline” is ranked as one of her favorite movies due to its more dark and irreverent tone.  “It's not that I don't lean over any other genres of movies, it's just that I think that thrillers and creepy movies have you on the edge of your seat more, they could be more interesting," Rosario said. "More can be done with a lesser timeframe, rather than like two-hour movies, and though they're good, they're pretty lengthy, so I think that horror and thriller movies have so much content in a short amount of time." Being a movie and music enthusiast, her favorite section to write is A&E. She often finds herself gravitating towards sections that allow her to editorialize.  “I prefer writing album reviews over any other, because it's something I enjoy writing about and giving my opinion on and it gives me a reason to listen to music for fun, rather than having to write lengthy feature stories or any informative story that aren't as fun to write," Rosario said.  Rosario hopes that her love for writing will continue to play a role in her future, even after high school. “One of the reasons I like journalism is that you’re able to choose and write about what you’d like and I think that’s pretty cool," Rosario said.  Profile by (Jordan De La Cruz)
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