File photo courtesy St. Mary's (Ohio) City Schools

File photo courtesy St. Mary's (Ohio) City Schools

These are undoubtedly challenging times. Since the initial news of the Coronavirus, now the COVID-19 pandemic, hit in January, the situation has drastically escalated, stoking panic. We have moved so quickly from lighthearted memes about stockpiling toilet paper to constant, increasingly sobering reports of rapidly rising numbers of diagnosed cases and deaths.

I think the reality hit me the evening of March 13 when I stopped by my neighborhood grocery store on the way home from work. I just planned to pick up a few last-minute ingredients for a comfort food pasta dish my husband and I were going to cook in preparation for #stayathome.

By now, we have seen the photos ad nauseum, but at that point, I had never witnessed anything remotely like it: There was next to nothing left. Shelf after shelf was completely bare. And there were more people taking photos with their phones of the lack of goods than there were customers attempting to shop. As with just about everyone else, panic set in for me, and I grabbed whatever random food items (forget about paper products) I could.

It occurred to me as I was standing in line with my paltry haul that that was the day that my local school district, Los Angeles Unified School District, announced it was closing schools. And then just like that, there was a wave of school closures across the country. Soon after, movie theaters, the dine-in locations of restaurants, and gyms.

And then I thought about you. School bus drivers, monitors, safety trainers, fleet mechanics and technicians, transportation coordinators, directors, contractors. I thought about how on the one hand, many drivers and other transportation employees wouldn’t be at work, and therefore wouldn’t get paid, a trying challenge during an already stubborn shortage. On the other hand, despite the school closures, drivers, technicians, and other pupil transporters would need to work on cleaning and repairing the buses, driving them out to bus stops and school sites to deliver food to children who might otherwise go hungry without their help. (We had already reported on some precautions being taken to combat COVID-19, such as disinfecting school buses and buildings, but it was not nearly as widespread.)

Since then, we have ramped up our efforts to keep you up to speed on how this crisis is impacting the world of student transportation. We have shared information on how some school districts are working to keep paying drivers during the school shutdown, and the National School Transportation Association’s calls, particularly amid Congress's stalemate over the stimulus package, to governors and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to require funding to continue paying pupil transporters while schools are closed, whether they are able to enlist them in tasks like meal delivery routes or not. Additionally, we reported on another vital role of some school buses right now: making Wi-Fi available to students as many schools transition to online learning.

We have also provided, courtesy of our sister publication, Luxury Coach & Transportation (LCT), more general information about COVID-19, its symptoms, and how to protect your employees.

On the upside, industry suppliers are stepping up to help: Transfinder and Tyler Technologies are offering parent communication apps for free during the crisis. Additionally, tech startup Transportant is working with school districts to use the company’s platform, which uses video-based technology to allow students, parents, and school administrators to better monitor school buses assisting in operations.

Please visit our COVID-19 resources page for updated coverage and valuable information from other sources, and feel free to send your own suggestions for additional resources.

And be safe out there. Stay home if you can. Practice social distancing and meticulous hand washing. Don’t forget to take care of yourself: get enough sleep and exercise. Eat healthily. Take deep breaths and breaks amid the stress. And remember: We are here to help you navigate this crisis.

About the author
Nicole Schlosser

Nicole Schlosser

Former Executive Editor

Nicole was an editor and writer for School Bus Fleet. She previously worked as an editor and writer for Metro Magazine, School Bus Fleet's sister publication.

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