20200722-NWS-gsnc-school bus

New Hampshire has struggled with a school bus driver shortage. Some wonder if the pandemic will worsen the situation. 

Bus drivers are among the many school employees raising concerns about districts’ plans to reopen.

New Hampshire has struggled for years with a school bus driver shortage, and the pandemic could make it even harder to retain drivers.

Since school closures in March, some drivers have been collecting unemployment. Others found new jobs. And still others might not return because their age or pre-existing health conditions put them at higher risk for COVID-19.

Mark Raposo of the N.H. School Transportation Association says that in order to get drivers back behind the wheel, schools needed to answer a lot of questions.

Those include how to screen kids before they board the bus, how to enforce mask-wearing, and: “How do you get a bus safely disinfected after dropping at your high school before you start your elementary? So there’s timing issues and a lot of labor,” Raposo says.

Raposo told state lawmakers Tuesday that individual districts’ decisions about masks could have unintended consequences for bus drivers.

“Are masks required? If so, who enforces this? Drivers can’t be mask police. They need to focus on their driving, keep their eyes on the road.”

Raposo said additional staff may be necessary to monitor students on the bus, and help with sanitation between runs.

Because districts are required by law to offer transportation to elementary and middle schoolers, they’ll need to figure out busing before they reopen.

This article is being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.