Morale is Key First, many of the responding

readers who pay their drivers offer packaged wellness programs that include physical fitness programs through gym memberships, dietary counseling, meditation, and mind- fulness coaching. They also offer employee assistance programs with various features, including finan- cial guidance and mental health counseling. Access to a staff nurse is available in some cases. One school district tied physical

fitness to financial incentives, based on weight loss and gym attendance. Many of these districts ranged from small to mid-size. Some of these programs are offered by the districts’ insurance carriers “Morale here is pretty high because

of this,” said Alfred Karam, director of transportation in the Shenende- howa Community School District in Clifton Park, New York. “The liveli- hood of our people is their number one priority. So, paying them when they’re forced to not work keeps morale pretty high.” Karam added that all staff also re- tained health insurance benefits. “We take out their portion from their pay and the district pays its portion,” he added. “That has not changed at all.” Karam shared that continuing to

pay transportation employees was something the district decided to do early on. “It was not something that had to be debated,” he said. “The district did it because it was the right thing to do. I attribute that to out- standing leadership.” Don Moore, executive director of transportation for the Gwinnett Coun- ty Public Schools in Georgia said the district is paying its drivers, monitors and cafeteria workers what he referred to as frontline pay, in appreciation for the service they are providing to the community by delivering free and reduced-cost meals to students. He said 68 of the district’s 140 schools run Title 1 programs. Moore added that bus drivers delivered 65,756 meals in a single day recently, while another

32 School Transportation News • JUNE 2020

15,366 meals were picked up at desig- nated sites by parents. “Morale is excellent, I have to admit,”

Moore said. “I and my supervisors ride buses every day so the drivers can see us on the buses. It is an amazing thing because you quickly see how much people appreciate it and how much they need the meals. Our drivers send us emails saying how much they appreciate what we are doing.” Morale among the transportation staff in the Crestwood Public School District in Mantua, Ohio is “between moderate and high,” according to Transportation Supervisor Sharon Dove. “They are at home and they would rather be doing their jobs,” she continued. “They want to come back to work. They miss their children.” Dove said her staff is also being paid, adding that besides delivering meals, some drivers pull double duty by working in food service. Meanwhile, the full-time trans-

portation staff at Ellensburg School District in Ellensburg, Washington is being paid, but the substitutes are not. Transportation Director Eric Engle said morale is pretty good, considering the circumstances. “We have a small group of driv-

ers on a rotation every third week delivering meals,” Engle said. “When they are not driving, they are doing training at home or they come in and wash their buses. They must make themselves available during their regular work hours. I have some folks who have high-risk health situations at home with a family member or themselves, so we are not requiring them to come in. In talking with them, they are a little tired of having this drag on, but as far as their employment and the dis- trict trying to keep them employed, they are pretty confident the district is doing the right thing.”

Keeping Employees Engaged Transportation directors in-

terviewed by STN agreed that maintaining constant contact with employees during the health crisis

is paramount to controlling rumors and the paranoia spawned by not knowing what is happening in the district and with their jobs. Tom Carroll, director of trans-

portation for the San Juan Unified School District in North Highlands, California, said that while morale is “pretty good” at his district, there is some hesitation and apprehension among some staff. “Paranoia is just as contagious as

any virus, and I think it’s worse in some cases, wondering if they are going to get paid or if they still have a job,” Carroll said. “We reach out to our employees every week and a half to two weeks, to let them know if there are any new revelations and to let them know they will continue to be paid and their benefits are intact. “There’s concern and apprehension

that things ae getting worse instead of better,” Carroll continued. “They want to know their benefits are still intact if they need to see a doctor or [if] their paycheck is coming so they can pay their rent or mortgage.” Carroll said his district is pay-

ing all employees, including the substitutes. “That was a foregone conclusion,” he said. “Everybody from the superintendent to the lunch lady. We have about 5,000 em- ployees so that’s a lot of people.” Engle said his driving staff is

required to check in with the office staff daily. “We’re really trying to keep them in the loop and provide them with any updates from the superin- tendent,” Engle said. “It seems to be working okay. I’ve been communi- cating everything I know.” Carol Hatfield, executive director

of transportation for the Hillsboro School District 1J in Oregon, agreed about how rapidly the paranoia of not knowing could spread, add- ing that the anxiety is not limited to school districts. “There’s a lot of anxiety because of the situation in general,” Hatfield said. “We’re all getting good at the technology of virtual meetings, and we’re starting a process now where supervisors are

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