How bus drivers are adapting to school reopenings

Cor'Darius Jones, a bus driver for Escambia County School District in Florida, returned back to his route on August 24th. He'd be driving elementary, middle, and high school students to and from school. Before school resumed, Jones was living paycheck to paycheck. His last day as part of the regular school year was before spring break, in March. During the summer, he paid his bills by driving for Postmates and briefly picking up a summer school route. Now that he's back behind the wheel, he's excited to be working again. But that doesn't come without concerns. "I do worry about a student getting me sick, but I don't try to let it bother me," Jones tells Yahoo Life. Bus drivers, Jones says, have taken on a multi-faceted job in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. "We're counselors, we're referees when things get hectic," he says, adding that they're also nurses. "With everything going on, especially the pandemic ... We're trying to find students that may look like they're getting ill."

Video Transcript

COR'DARIUS JONES: Right now, we can't really social distance on school buses. We can't, it's impossible. We'd have to have so many buses out on the road. And Escambia County is one of the largest fleets in the United States. So yeah, can't social distance on there.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

My name's Cor'darius Jones. I'm a school bus operator here in Escambia County, Florida. I drive bus routes for elementary, middle, and high school. I do worry about a student getting me sick, but I don't try to let it bother me that a student may get me sick. If I have a student sitting behind me, and maybe they just cough just one time, nothing big, if I'm constantly looking down my back, trying to figure out if this student going to cough again-- again, I don't know what's going on in front of me. I don't know if a car is going to slam on brakes. I don't know if a child is going to walk in front of the bus, because I'm too worried about one cough that a child did. So it stays in my mind, it does.

Every elementary student I had-- all 16-- already had a mask. I didn't have to provide not one mask. The high schoolers wasn't so good. Out of 16, I had four. And of course, I got masks to provide. Nobody really wanted it.

School was pushed back until March 28th after word got spread of how bad the virus was getting. Again, the numbers were rising. They didn't see it fit, so they closed school for the entire year. I didn't go back until August 24th. I would say I was living paycheck to paycheck during that time. If school was to shut down because of an outbreak, it would definitely affect me personally.

And unfortunately, of course, bus drivers-- we're not going to get paid, whereas the teachers, the janitorial staff, everybody else-- they're still working. Teachers can work remote. Janitors can clean the schools. But we as bus drivers, we're stuck at home. I would definitely be concerned, because, again, I have bills piled up already as it is.

Being a bus driver, we're counselors. We're referees, sometimes, when things get hectic. We're nurses when kids get sick or kids get hurt. So we're doing all these things. We have up to 77 kids behind us, 26 seats. We're trying to find students that maybe look like they're getting ill. A sign could be a student leaning their head against the window, a student with their eyes closed, a student constantly coughing.

What people don't understand, and what they don't see on this side of a bus driver, is we're the very first person these kids are going to see in the morning. My smile, my good morning, my, hey, how are you, is something that these kids take to heart.

It seems after a while, things are going to start feeling normal, I feel. But for the most part, a pretty good first day back. We'll see how tomorrow goes.

[MUSIC PLAYING]