FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) — As the debate continues over whether it’s safe to have children back in classrooms during this pandemic, the virus has created another dilemma – how to get them there.
Data from AARP suggests that nationally 75% of bus drivers are over age 55 – which is the vulnerable age group for the virus – but unlike teachers they can’t do their jobs remotely to protect themselves from the virus.
Bus drivers are dedicated to their district and the precious cargo they’re responsible for but because of the pandemic there are limits.
“We are saying we’re gonna stick to our guns and when we’re called to school we’re gonna show up but not at the risk of our health,” says Floyd County bus driver Daniel Thomas.
For bus driver Daniel Thomas, it’s not himself he’s worried about.
“We’ve had some dedicated drivers that have been driving since the 70s,” says Thomas.
He also has at-risk family members at home.
“That have some very grave underlying health conditions that would, ya know, certainly cause death,” says Thomas.
He says if positive cases surged, he would likely have to resign to protect his family.
“We have had a few drivers retire mostly because of their underlying health issues,” says Thomas.
Safety is always on the minds of drivers in Floyd County because of its history.
“Floyd County was the site of one of the worst school bus disasters in the history of the nation,” says Thomas. “So when it comes to safety it is a 135%, on the forefront of your brain that’s what we strive for.”
Bus rides will look different because of the pandemic.
There will be strict seating assignments, no two kids will sit in the same seat unless they’re siblings, rows will be skipped or staggered to keep kids apart, masks will be worn, and the seats closest to the driver will stay empty.
They’ll also load the bus with students assigned to sit in the back going in first and exiting the bus last so students don’t pass each other on the way to or from their seat.
“We’re gonna have a sanitizing station installed as soon as the children get on the school bus so right from the beginning we’re gonna have an added level of protection,” says Thomas.
The driver will keep track of seating assignments and attendance to help if contract tracing is necessary.