Health & Wellness

nsuring employee workplace satisfaction and well- ness has been a major challenge for school district transportation departments since the onset of COVID-19 forced school officials to choose discre-

tion over valor and shut down the nation’s schools for the balance of the academic year. Besides achieving the primary goal of keeping students (and their communities) healthy by keeping them home, school dis- tricts across the nation are faced with the collateral dilemmas of keeping underpaid bus drivers and other staff motivated when many face forced layoffs. Industry leaders are seeking solutions to keep their employees engaged in district operations and perform- ing as a cohesive unit when “social distancing,” “self-quarantine” and “stay home” have become part of an emerging new normal in the lexicon that is now driving the way many coworkers relate to each other. The first issue to be addressed is employee morale, which in most cases is tied to job security, salary and benefits. School districts that operate their own bus fleets solved this issue early on by guarantee- ing bus drivers that their salary and benefits packages would remain in place, even though some would be working reduced hours. In some states, this was a provision in a gubernatorial executive order. Bus drivers who are able or at low risk of contracting COVID-19

deliver meals to Title 1 students or maintain their buses to get paid. In fact, the overwhelming majority of more than 220 trans-

portation directors and supervisors who responded to a School Transportation News survey this spring indicated they were con- tinuing to pay their school bus drivers, mechanics, office staff and administrators. But it’s important to note the vast majority of these responses come from public school districts. Many bus drivers who worked for private contractors, have not been not so lucky. Readers have reported from Connecticut to Or- egon that districts are not paying their school bus companies, and school bus drivers and staff have been laid off or had their hours slashed. And many aren’t eligible for unemployment, either because they are still employed, albeit earning far less than their normal pay, or the state considers them seasonal workers and not eligible.

50% of respondents say their department offers a health and wellness program for its transportation employees.

(Out of 333 responses to a recent STN reader survey.)

What does your health and wellness program consist of? 48% Mediation/ mindfulness/ counseling 43%Dietary coaching 41% Physical fitness/gym membership 40% Nurse on staff 26% Other (employee assistance programs, cash incentives, meals)

(Out of 156 responses to a recent STN reader survey. Multiple answers allowed. Total does not equal 100.) 31

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