Pandemic ponderings: East Side News investigates behind-the-scenes roles of people who make life easier for the general public, particularly for students and staff.
East Side News investigates how daily life during the pandemic has changed not only for students and staff but anyone devoted to the educational industry – including bus drivers.
The writers and editors will interview various staff members about how their educational roles have changed with e-learning.
This segment features Bus Router and Driver Stacey Burgin, mom to Poll Editor Eddie Burgin.
What is your basic job title, description, and duties?
A router for a school bus company, my duties are routing students to and from school
How has your job changed generally since COVID-19? What did it look like in the beginning of the pandemic, and how does that compare to now?
It has changed drastically. In the beginning of the pandemic, obviously my job stopped. I was off work for four months because there were no kids going to school at all. But before that, my job was pretty… steady. Kids go to school and then kids move and are added and dropped, so things change all the time, but it was normal. And now it’s completely different because only certain schools have the normal hours that they always had, some of the private schools. But [some] public schools, they’re sending kids to school for anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours. [Plainfield School District 202 is fully remote at the time of publication]. And the schedules are… weird. … It’s very hard to route because it’s hard to coordinate drivers to do the jobs that need to be done.
Compare and contrast a pre-pandemic work day to now.
Pre-pandemic: we would get emails from districts – we take care of 15 districts where I work – so I’d get emails from districts, and they would say, “Johnny needs to go Jefferson School, so can you please add him to the route starting next week?” And it would just get done. Now, they send over these crazy requests for kids to go to school for thirty minutes or an hour, and the times are like, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. It’s a lot harder. And then we’ll get them routed, and then I’ll call the mom to say, “This is the pickup time for Johnny,” and mom will say “What are you talking about? He’s not going to school, he’s still remote.” … I’ve learned before I find a driver for a small route like that, I usually call the parent first before I even go through with it. “
Describe the process of planning a route. Is it ever-changing in these times?
Absolutely. … For instance, …one school … had a certain amount of kids that were going [to school] … for two hours. And then they wanted to increase it to three hours, and then they decided, “No, wait. We’re doing too much. Maybe we should go back to two hours.” Everything’s changing. Besides, … in the pandemic, with the numbers going up, a lot of schools are closing. We just got notice of three schools over the weekend, and today another school said today’s our last day [until a certain time] … Some schools have already decided they’re not going back until January.
What do you know right now about how bussing will work if schools progress into hybrid learning?
It’s gonna be crazy. Just like it has been for the past… four months. … It’s hard because you get a driver on a route, and then they’re working and … now … your school went remote.
[So no more work, no more pay.]
Correct. They can try to get unemployment again, but… if we don’t have work, we don’t [get paid]. … We’ve had two drivers be off of work with Covid, one was in the hospital for three weeks because she’s got diabetes and she was quite sick. The other one didn’t have to be in the hospital, but she was off work for a couple weeks.
Do you have anything to add?
I can’t wait until this pandemic is over, and things can get back to normal. I will definitely appreciate my job more once things are back to normal, when things can be done on a regular basis where there’s not all of these… surprises and changes. Although … if things were actually back to normal right now, we would be in so much trouble because we don’t have enough drivers, … a lot of drivers quit, … are still off because they have underlying conditions … (either diabetic or … a heart issue), so they’re not working.