Some Guilford County bus drivers raise concerns about new responsibilities, uncertainty during school shutdown

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Several Guilford County Schools bus drivers have raised concerns about their hours, new responsibilities and allotted leave during a two-week school shutdown.

“I had no earthly idea this situation was going to spread as much as it did and I know other people feel the same way,” said one bus driver, who did not want to be identified.

Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras announced over the weekend that drivers and nutritional staff would continue to be paid. Now, drivers are learning that they may take on additional duties.

“They gave us a form to fill out, and the two options we had were to not come to work, or to use our personal time if we had it because sick leave and overtime was not an option,” she explained. “Or two, we could come in and do various jobs which were delivering lunches to students, breakfast and lunch, to clean buses, shuttle buses, clean the schools, things of that nature that are technically not in our job description.”

The woman said she worried about going into schools during the shutdown and wants to stay healthy.

“To be honest, everyone is at high risk because I don’t know if you have it, you don’t know if I have it, it’s kind of Russian roulette in a way in my opinion,” she said.

In an email to employees, district staff outlined that to get paid, they will need to work their regularly scheduled number of hours or take leave.

“The State Board of Education has provided guidelines to school districts that in order for employees to be paid right now they either need to work, work from home according to state board policy or use paid leave,” said Rachel Eitzen, of Teamsters Local 391.

According to the email, employees at higher-risk of coronavirus complications may also take sick leave, but they will need to submit a doctor’s note to HR.

Eitzen has been working nonstop to answer questions from bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians. She said some are worried about childcare and are getting less hours.

Eitzen explained that contracted bus drivers who don’t work for the county don’t have the option of outside work and are now having to file for unemployment.

“I think state legislators and federal legislators need to pass legislation that will protect all workers and provide pay during this time, I think everyone is sort of in the same boat trying to figure this stuff out,” she said.

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