a public or private employee, some of these drivers won’t be available to drive routes once school resumes because they left for other districts or the industry altogether. And districts that don’t pay may also be without transportation service, once school resumes.

When thinking in terms of being

community first responders, school bus drivers aren’t usually the first peo- ple to come to mind. Rather, society thinks of firefighters, police officers, nurses and doctors. But school bus drivers are also on the frontline, risking their personal safety for the well-being of students, and providing services that students need, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. However, like most of the nation, school transportation operations are divided in the term “essential busi- ness” What does it really mean? Who does it apply to? Operations have interpreted

“essential” differently. For example, transportation staff at Palmerton Area School District, located 82 miles North of Philadelphia, is currently collecting unemployment during the “Stay at Home” guideline issued by Gov. Tom Wolf. The district was waiting for the

governor to lift the order, before it returns to full operations. Transpor- tation Manager Danielle George said full-time staff will return to normal working hours to prepare for the upcoming school year, as soon as the governor says it’s safe. Meanwhile, San Diego Unified School District is offering time- and-a-half hazard pay to staff that is working to support the district’s COVID-19 response. The district is not utilizing bus drivers to deliver the meals, as many districts are doing. Instead, transportation employees are working at food distribution sites during the week, where they are coming into contact with other em- ployees and school families. A plan proposed by congressional Democrats as part of a fourth federal stimulus package, the “Heroes Fund,”

aims to provide premium pay for frontline workers for long hours spent in hazardous conditions during the ongoing COVID-19 response. It would provide a $25,000 pay increase, equiv- alent to a $13 an hour raise, retroactive to the start of the public health emer- gency on Jan. 27 and in place until the end of the year. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer intimated that transportation workers, and thus schoo bus drivers, might apply. Curt Macysyn, executive director of the NSTA, told School Transportation News that the organization “is going to make a push for school bus drivers to be included” in the proposal. However, NTSA’s Macysyn has re-

peatedly said that funding is already allocated to school transportation departments for the 2019-2020 school year, and the contract should still be honored as if the coronavirus had never happened. H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Re-

lief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides $2.2 trillion in federal economic aid in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It includes a condition pushed by NSTA that school districts nationwide must continue to pay its employees and contractors during school closures in order to receive the funds. However, some contractors still aren’t being paid. Tina Spence, director of compli- ance and pupil transportation at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, said that all school dis- trict employees in the state are being paid at this time. “If districts [do not] pay their cer-

tified and non-certified staff during this critical time, they risk a higher number of unfilled positions in the 2020-2021 school year,” Spence said. “This would [create] more difficulties to ensuring students are transported to and from school.” But she noted that districts that

contract out their transportation need to renegotiate their contracts with bus companies, adding that state law does not allow school districts to pay for services they have

not received. She said that if con- tracted companies are performing other jobs during this time, districts can pay for those services, per the existing contract. She also said that districts might have to amend their contracts to meet any new duties being performed.

Rerouted Missions Since President Donald Trump

declared a national emergency on March 13, operations across the nation have ceased or altered their provided services. Restaurants have turned to take-out only or delivery options. Sport teams have halted games and practices. And of course schools have closed physical build- ings for on-site, in-person learning. Things appear to be changing by

the day, and Americans across the nation have learned to adapt to their own “new normal,” as adults work from home and find strategies to balance homeschooling their chil- dren. However, as schools attempt to educate students via online portals and video conference meetings, more equity challenges persist. According to a survey administered

by Education Week last month, school administrators are addressing student equity by offering pick up or deliv- ery of free or reduced-priced meals, Chromebooks and homework pack- ets. While equity is one of the main area’s administrators are attempting to address, the survey also found that the efforts are not necessarily reaching the students who need them. School transportation operations

have alleviated some of those barriers by delivering those resources to stu- dents. Transportation operations have shifted gears during this crisis and are pulling together to act as a bridge for community communications. School bus drivers delivering meals is the new normal now, as districts realized that when schools closed, free and reduced lunch students would go hungry without the support of the school cafeteria. School bus drivers and transpor- 19

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64