Now as schools in Florida prepare to reopen this fall, some school bus drivers are retiring rather than going back to work where they believe they could risk coronavirus exposure.
“I don’t want to die,” said Layne Shelander of Port St. Lucie.
People over the age of 60, like Shelander, are at greater risk of getting severely sick with COVID-19.
In Florida, a large percentage of school bus drivers fall into that vulnerable age group.
But unlike teachers, bus drivers cannot do their jobs remotely to protect themselves from catching the coronavirus.
“It’s very frightening,” she said. “It’s incomprehensible.”
Operating a school bus this academic year will be different. School buses may be half-empty, given social distancing concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drivers may be required to take students’ temperatures before allowing them to board. Students may be in assigned seats and drivers may be walled off from students with plexiglass.
“I’m concerned. I’m very concerned for my friends that don’t have the choice,” Shelander said. “They have to work and they have to drive.”
Before the ongoing pandemic, many districts across the region struggled to hire and retain bus drivers in a tight job market.
Now, with health concerns among the older drivers who threaten not to return to the job, getting kids to school could shape up to be one of the biggest reopening challenges.