School bus drivers to wear many hats under COVID-19 restrictions

Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 9:06 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Students attending New Hanover County Schools will be screened before and after riding the bus, the first screening will be the responsibility of parents or guardians.

The move is one of many changes that the Transportation Department faces under restrictions due to COVID-19.

“Parents are going to be expected to sign an attestation form that says they have screened their child from home, they don’t have a fever, they don’t have symptoms.” Said NHCS Transportation Director Mark Clawson. “They come to the bus wearing a mask, they sit one child per seat for distancing. If there are family members, they can sit together. Our capacity on our busses has been reduced dramatically and that’s in an effort to keep children safely distanced from one another.”

Once children arrive at school the screening process begins again before entry to ensure the safety of the children as well as faculty and staff.

Where busses stop will also change for the 2020-21 school year. Busses will no longer travel throughout neighborhoods at time picking up children from their driveways. Instead, central locations will serve as pickup locations.

“The plan is to have more community stops to pick up and drop kids off - so places like a neighborhood clubhouse, pool, or subdivision entrance instead of buses traveling throughout a neighborhood making a lot of stops.” Mr. Clawson said.

Pickup times are not expected to change.

If a driver were to test positive for COVID-19, NHCS would follow the protocol established by the New Hanover County Health Department.

“If it’s determined there has been significant exposure, then they would be subject to the same quarantining process.” Mr. Clawson added, “If we have an outbreak and we lose a significant number of drivers we have dispatchers, supervisors, mechanics and clerks that are CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) bus certified. We have a plan to cover that situation if it happens to arise.”

Because the 2020-21 school year will operate under Plan C with students at home for remote learning during at least the first nine weeks of the year, drivers will be used for other duties.

“They’re going to be working not only in food delivery, but they’ll serve as building screeners for COVID. We’ll do temperature screening, ask a battery of questions to make sure our occupants are safe to enter the building. They’re also going to be monitoring labs for employees’ children to come to the buildings to do their remote learning to give these students a place to learn their education throughout the workday for the parent in the building.”

Mr. Clawson estimated that of the roughly 160 drivers, only six have expressed a concern about safety and plan to use their leave time instead of driving routes.

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