The majority of Illinois students are still learning remotely so there hasn’t been much need for school buses. Unfortunately, that means in many school districts there has been no need for bus drivers either.
Ladel Cass is a northern Illinois general manager at busing provider First Student.
He oversees 10 districts and says only around 30% are driving their normal routes right now.
And for the ones that are picking up and dropping off students as usual, they’ve had to make some major changes.
“The idea of daily sanitization is a new concept that we've all had to really consider,” he said.
Cass said even post-pandemic they want to hold themselves to a higher standard of cleaning.
They’ve also had to reconfigure the routes they take in each district, because of new capacity limits. Buses can typically hold 72 passengers. But in the current phase of Illinois’ reopening plan, they can only have 50 people total. So, they’re routing for 48, plus the driver.
Many drivers are out of work but Cass said even the ones who are driving were very nervous as school was beginning.
For one, their responsibility to keep kids safe extends into areas they could have never considered.
“We also are part of the process to ensure that kids are being safe where they're wearing face masks and ensuring distancing once they're on the bus, making sure kids are keeping hands to themselves,” said Cass.
Not to mention the primary goal: safely transporting them to and from school.