What Happens When School Bus Drivers Are Sick?

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school bus driversFrom the perspective of a district transportation manager, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak came at one of the worst possible times. No time is good for an epidemic, but with schools already hurting from the shortage of school bus drivers, even minor disruptions to the workforce can cause major problems.  

So what can a school do to reduce the chances of illness? Or, if their school bus drivers do get sick, what alternatives could they set up? There are not many easy answers here, but districts still need to look into what they can do.

Dealing With the School Bus Drivers Shortage During a Disease Outbreak

1. Emphasize Hygiene 

Prevention is absolutely the best medicine here, and that begins with your buses and drivers. If you haven't already, we'd suggest positioning bottles of hand sanitizer near the door of every bus, and encourage all students to make use of it as they get on or off. Cleaning the interiors of the buses more often will also help.

Giving out surgical masks to your drivers is another option, depending on the mood in your district. They could be seen as a sign that you're taking disease-prevention seriously, but they could also cause people to worry that their driver is sick.  

2. Do Whatever You Can to Find Backup Drivers

There are undoubtedly people in your district with valid CDLs. Now is the time to start reaching out to them. Run ads in local newspapers, on local radio, and do service announcements. Offer big bonuses if needed. You should do whatever possible to increase your list of backups who can be called in if a driver gets sick.

3. Keep Your Drivers Happy

On top of everything else going on, some districts are seeing driver labor disputes, with their drivers deliberately calling in sick as a form of strike. If more drivers start doing this, it could be very bad. Do what it takes to keep your drivers happy, listen to their concerns, and take reasonable steps if they have complaints.

4. Know When to Say "When" and Cancel Classes

Cancelling classes is, of course, the last recourse, but some districts in Washington state are already doing just that. If there's reason to think that the coronavirus has made it into your school district, trying to force students to come to class will only make things worse. Likewise, if too many bus drivers are sick, there may simply not be other options.

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In short, the coronavirus outbreak is already causing significant disruption to school transportation systems, and will undoubtedly cause more problems before things get better. What is your school doing to prepare, or prevent canceled classes? Let's talk about it in the comments below.