Coronavirus has affected almost every aspect of life over the past four months, to varying degrees. Worst of all, in Ontario alone, there have been 2752 deaths. And, to a lesser degree of crappiness, over 2.2. million people have been furloughed or let go, and countless businesses have gone under.
One industry that has been greatly affected and the future of which is murky and confusing at best, is our school system. We recently wrote about what a post-COVID19 school day would look like for kids, according to the government’s latest idea’s on how to proceed, and much has been made about the future of out children’s education. People talk about staggered school weeks, teachers getting overworked, how kids will deal mentally with the new rules, and how parents will juggle the new schedules with work, but we’ve overlooked a very important aspect of schools: bus drivers.
Bus drivers are an absolutely essential aspect of our society at large, and we rely on thousnads of them everyday across Ontario to get out kids to and from school. So it seems fairly reasonable that the bus driver union, Unifor, is asking the province to make their safety as paramount as that of the kids.
We’ve all been on school buses, so we know they are pretty much the farthest thing from a social distanced space. The average school bus holds up to 72 children and there’s only one entrance and exit, unlike a MiWay bus. So how are the kids supposed to socially distance? And how are the bus drivers to stay as safe as possible? Unifor is asking these questions, while also pointing out that a significant portion of its drivers are retirees and therefore at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
Unifor is asking for more buses to alleviate the amount of children on each journey, as well as the standard protocols to be enforced as they would be in schools. Unifor has warned schools that if their requirements are not met there will be a massive shortage of driver’s returning to work when schools do reconvene.
This is yet another headache for the Ministry of Education but one that can be fairly easily rectified. Adding double the buses won’t be an easy or cheap task but is absolutely necessary, as it adding glass in the driver cabin to protect them, and demanding that everyone wear masks. The buses will also have to be cleaned down after every journey, so it’s going to be a real task for the driver’s. The future of schools is uncertain and confusing, but the MoE can’t overlook and undervalue the essential bus drivers that we rely on every day.