Local school bus drivers concerned with safety and job security

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — They’re responsible for getting kids to school safely. When the pandemic hit, they dropped off weekly meals to keep children fed and converted their buses into a Wi-Fi hotspots so students could stay connected. As school districts across the Triad figure out what school will look like next month, bus drivers tell FOX8 they’re being left in the dark.

“I have really missed working and we’ve been out of school for a long time,” said Betty Thacker, a bus driver for Guilford County Schools.

This time of year, Thacker would normally be enjoying her last few weeks of summer before the school year and her bus routes begin, but this year she’s left with a list of questions and zero answers.

“Are we going to be protected with insurance or will we have to go to COBRA? Are we going to get our bonuses in August and December?” Thacker asked.

Her worst fear is not having a job to do if Guilford County Schools starts the year off with students learning remotely.

Thacker understands the risk to herself, she is in her 70s, but she depends on her bus driving income and is not eligible for unemployment benefits.

“I feel like even though I’m at that age risk, I believe if I practice what I’m supposed to do then I’ll be OK but if you don’t practice it then you’re asking for trouble,” Thacker said.

She plans to follow the state’s suggested cleaning schedule — wiping down and sanitizing the inside of the bus before morning and afternoon routes.

“It’s going to be rough and tough to deal with this but it’s a challenge that we have to follow the rules and regulations for this stuff to work,” Thacker said.

Aside from state guidelines, she’s received no other direction on how the drivers themselves will be kept safe.

“Kids are going to get on the bus and I know they’re not going to keep masks on and it’s going to be a challenge for us,” Thacker said.

Thacker wants Plexiglas installed around bus drivers to protect them.

“We still have a long way to go. People still need to practice social distancing which I’m seeing not happening,” Thacker said.

She also worries about the kids on her route.

“I’d hate to have to worry about how these kids are going to get to and from where they need to go,” Thacker said.

Four weeks out and with no answers, Thacker wonders if she should start looking for another job.

“Right now it’s a trying time for everyone,” Thacker said.

A Guilford County Schools spokesperson told FOX8 that until the school board finalizes a plan, the district is unable to answer questions about transportation. The next board meeting is on Tuesday, July 28.

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