JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The leaders of the union representing school bus drivers said Monday they still don’t have many answers as to how they will transport thousands of Duval County students to and from school each day.
The union president said the district told them to contact the bus company for guidance on the upcoming school year.
In an interview on The Morning Show, a union representative said seniors and single parents make up the majority of school bus operators in their union.
They are concerned the two biggest deterrents for the coronavirus, masks and socially distancing, will be difficult to enforce on the buses.
“They’ve given us no answers to any concerns,” said Rebecca Cardona, a representative with Teamsters Local 512.
School bus drivers in Duval County said they are still waiting on full guidelines for the next school year, which for now, starts in about three weeks.
The district has required students and drivers to wear masks on the school bus, but the superintendent also said it will be impossible to socially distance students according to current CDC guidelines.
Cardona said union leadership is concerned about the potential spread of the virus on the buses after attending a kickoff meeting for the carriers.
“Those children will actually be seated two to a seat. There is also no way to enforce the mask requirement, so there is a lot of concerns,” she said. “As the district laid out in that kickoff meeting, if the children get on the bus and they don’t have a mask the bus driver in any situation cannot refuse a child they have to provide ridership to the child. And they have to document a certain number of days that the child does not have a mask, and turn that information into the school. But, again, the districts already made it very clear that there is no discipline to be implemented as it relates to non-compliance with the mask requirement. So at this point, the drivers and the monitors both feel that their hands are kind of tied.”
Last week, Cardona wrote an email to the HR director for Duval Schools expressing concerns about work conditions and asked to meet to determine best practices to protect drivers.
The next day, she was told school bus companies are planning their own procedures and to work with them regarding work conditions.
“They’ve given us no answers to any concerns,” Cardona said.
The union representing Duval County School bus drivers is still negotiating with both transportation companies contracted with the school district, Durham Transportation Services.
To give some context: the school negotiates with bus companies and then the bus companies negotiate with the bus unions. But the bus union said it’s struggling to come to an agreement on working conditions and guidelines from either group.