Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus drivers have few changes to otherwise ‘strong’ COVID-19 plan

School bus safety concerns in CMS

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) -As we talk about first day back for CHarlotte-Mecklenburg middle and high schoolers, it also means it is first day back for more bus drivers.

People might remember those days of sitting around, waiting for a late bus.

During the first week of school, those things are common, but CMS says it expects smooth sailing the rest of the week.

The Transportation Director Adam Johnson says plan B, hybrid learning, limits the number of people on the bus meaning less time on the road.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools says its bus drivers with middle and high school routes only have to pick up 24 students. That is how many students transportation director Adam Johnson said are allowed for COVID protocols.

Beyond safety, the lower number helps drivers get through routes on time and sometimes even early. The practice also helps.

Johnson said drivers went through bus routes a couple of weeks before to get familiar.

WBTV talked to two drivers who say the CMS’s plan works. It is a good plan, but it leaves some room for improvement.

”You could catch COVID at any moment,” said a driver who wanted to stay anonymous.

COVID-19 is the last thing Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools bus drivers want to pick up.

”As far as safety, I feel OK. I mean I don’t really have no complaints,” said bus driver Keisha Reede.

Keisha Reede started driving at the beginning of the school year and has not stopped since.

She said strong CMS safety protocols keep her from getting sick.

”Right now everything is running pretty smoothly. I think more concern is going to come when you actually load the buses up,” said Reede.

However, the anonymous driver has more pressing concerns.

”I feel like CMS should give us supplies like cleaning supplies and disinfectant supplies instead of us using our hard-earned money. That stuff is not cheap at all,” the driver said.

The driver spends about $50 to $60 on the extra cleaning supplies.

The driver said they are extremely hard to find still.

They feel the school should be handling that part of the job. The driver said that when he goes to another bus to cover a route, drivers are not notified why the other driver is out.

Adding to that worry, the driver fears parents are filling out a COVID-19 health screening sheet without really thinking about it.

The screening sheet asks if the students have tested positive for COVID-19 or been close contact with someone who has.

WBTV took these concerns to the CMS transportation director with drivers spending their money on supplies.

”We certainly recognize drivers may want to take some extra steps to bring some disinfectant wipes to do some of their own cleanings and we appreciate that but if they need something we certainly have everything available for them,” said Johnson.

Johnson said a HIPPA violation blocks the school from giving out certain health information but said he plans to bring that worry up to the board.

”Just like we have to go above and beyond for our students CMS should do their jobs and go above and beyond for us,” said the anonymous driver.

Some good news coming their way. Bus drivers are eligible for the vaccine starting Wednesday.

CMS did have a bus driver shortage at the end of last year.

The transportation director says many drivers left due to COVID and being out of work. He says the district maintained enough people to cover all routes but he’s always looking for more drivers.

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