COVID-19: School bus driver shortage heightened during pandemic, drivers say

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Drivers told Action News Jax there’s sometimes as many as 40 kids on the school bus, making it impossibly to socially distance. Some said that masks on board are sometimes difficult to enforce.

“I’m scared,” said Ramon Turner, who used to drive for Student Transportation of America.

He’s concerned contact tracing in the classroom does not make its way back to the bus. A shortage of drivers also forces routes to combine, he claimed.

”You don’t know what bus you’re going to ride in with or ride home with the bus shortage, and they don’t have enough drivers,” he said.

Action News Jax requested information from the Duval County Public Schools transportation department on how routes are handled when a driver calls out. We are still waiting on a response.

The Department of Health handles contact tracing for the district.

In a statement, a representative said, “Contact tracers would work with the positive case to pinpoint where they were and who they came in contact with while they were contagious. If a positive case was on a school bus during their contagious period, that would definitely be of interest and part of the investigation. Quarantining would apply to the students on the bus that were in close contact with the positive case.”

Turner said everyone, including drivers, come in close contact on the bus because of a lack of space, as more students switch from Duval HomeRoom to in-person learning.

“The space itself is shrinking everyday,” he said.

He added that bus drivers are not compensated if they have to quarantine, or are sick and cannot come to work.

Action News Jax requested a statement from Student Transportation of America, and we are still waiting to hear back at the time of this article.

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