Shelby County bus drivers preparing for school year

By SASHA JOHNS | Community Columnist

The Shelby County Board of Education is preparing for a new school year like no other we’ve experienced as a community or a nation. Shelby County is also working to prepare not only the staff and teachers inside our schools but the first person many of our children will see each day.

The Shelby County School Bus Drivers spent July 17 and July 20 in several socially distant continuing education meetings to help prepare them for the start of the new school calendar.

Each meeting was kicked off with a word from Shelby County Schools’ Superintendent, Dr. Lewis Brooks.

“I’m proud of how our system’s drivers responded to the crisis right away,” Brooks told his drivers about how many drivers across the county stepped up and made sure they were part of the army of workers that helped get food into the hands of kids in need when the schools closed. “You are the first point of contact for our kids. They trust you and you provided them with a familiar face that helped them feel loved and cared for.”

The head of school transportation, Rick Vines, also spoke to encourage bus drivers, as he prepared to give them the information they’d need about sanitizing their vehicles and keeping themselves and their students safe through the reopening of school on Aug. 13.

He noted that each driver will be provided with PPE to be used for themselves along with sanitizing supplies to be used throughout the entire bus between and after routes.

“It’s very important for me to keep these kids safe,” one bus driver told the group at the meeting. “After enough time on a route, years for some of us, you begin to think of them as your own. You want them to be healthy, and you want to be healthy for them so things stay as normal as possible.”

That being said, the school district has outlined three plans to be enacted as needed throughout the year, each one bringing more safety and distancing should the threat levels of COVID-19 go up during the year.

“What we know this year is that we have to be able to pivot at any given moment,” Brooks said. “Flexibility isn’t always enough anymore. Sometimes you have to be ready to change the plan altogether when necessary because we’ve never been through anything like this.”

The Back Together, Cautious Together and E-learning Together plans are already outlined to allow the district to do the best it can to keeps kids not only educated, but together as a community despite the need to be physically apart.

Bus drivers take their jobs very seriously and look forward to seeing your children again in August. As the transportation shop in Columbiana reminds them, they are the first smile many kids see each day.