An essential part of the support staff at Midtown are the bus drivers, who are responsible for making sure that students get to and from school safely.
“Some of the most important and dedicated people at this school right now are our bus drivers,” Vincent said. “They have a huge responsibility in making sure all of our students get to school safely, and they have been absolutely wonderful this year. Their work makes this school a lot easier to run as well.”
Hundreds of students rely on the Midtown bus drivers every day to get them to and from school, making drivers’ jobs tremendously difficult.
“The bus is my main mode of transport to and from school, and has been a staple in my life since sixth grade,” junior Jonas Loesel said. “I am grateful for the buses and to the bus drivers, and it is a nice convenience.”
Difficulties, including drivers being confronted with the ever-present threat of Covid-19, have created inefficiencies in morning and afternoon bus schedules and routes.
“Sometimes drivers don’t show up at school, and when this happens, kids are sometimes left stranded for hours with no way of getting home,” Vincent said. “These situations have forced us to improvise, with faculty and staff sometimes having to drive the buses. From what I have seen, a lot of the reason why they aren’t showing up is because of the stress of Covid and other issues this school year.”
Students have been frustrated with this situation.
“I have been riding the bus since the beginning of this year,” freshman Nyhila Silva said. “In this period, there have been plenty of times where buses haven’t shown up or have shown up an hour or so late. On these occasions, I have been stuck in school until my parents can pick me up. I also have many friends who have been stranded at school since their driver did not show up.”
The situation has also forced some bus drivers to cover the routes of the driver who did not show up.
“It’s really inconvenient, and in my opinion, it’s not very responsible when bus drivers don’t show up, and I have had to cover their shifts,” Midtown bus driver Edward Reeves said. “I have covered these routes on several occasions, and it means that I have to do extra work just to make sure the kids aren’t stranded at school.”
Midtown bus driver Quindrica Byrd said bus drivers across the district have also had to adapt to major adjustments since in-person school and the need for bus drivers has resumed.
“Last year, I wasn’t really needed as a bus driver, and when I was called back this year, I didn’t realize how much harder it would be,” Byrd said. “This year with Covid, it was a lot tougher for both the kids and bus drivers like myself. We were all required to wear masks, and I had to deal with a whole bunch of other issues as well. In my case, I am studying for my bachelors degree as well; so, all of this along with my studies has made this year incredibly hard for me.”
Though there have been issues to problem-solve, there has been one major positive for bus drivers this year: the behavior of Midtown students on their buses.
“The students have been behaving wonderfully this year, and we haven’t had any major incidents of students misbehaving like we have had in previous years,” Vincent said. “From what I have heard from the drivers, our students have been extremely respectful, and I’m really proud of them for representing our school in this manner.”
Students have also had to adjust to a new reality on buses due to the transportation mask mandate on school district transportation.
“Most people are really good at wearing masks, but a few aren’t,” Silva said. “It’s really nice that everyone follows the mask-wearing protocol on the buses, and it has made me feel safer on the buses this year.”
The overall behavior of the students on the buses and their following of mask protocol has made this year enjoyable for Byrd.
“I have been driving for Midtown for three years, and this has been the best and my favorite year yet,” Byrd said. “The students have behaved excellently on the buses, and I have not had one disciplinary issue this year. I drive for some other APS schools and have had dozens of severe disciplinary cases, but the Midtown kids have been exemplary.”
Though the bus system has gone through several ups and downs this year, administrators have hope that the system will start to run more smoothly.
“I hope that next year we can get back to a more stable process like we had before Covid,” Vincent said. “The buses are an extremely important part of hundreds of students’ lives, and it is our job as administrators to make the system as efficient as possible.”
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