HISD bus drivers fear going back to work

Houston Independent School District bus drivers are back at work for training, but many say they still feel scared getting on the bus because the school district is not doing enough to make the bus safe.  

Driving the yellow school bus is something Velma Allen has done for three decades, and for the first time, she says the 'back to school' excitement is not there.

“It is still scary for us because we don't know what to expect,” said Allen. “We have no source of income coming in, and I can't go out and find another job because I am too old for that now with my health conditions. We are just in a 'whatever they say' state. Whatever they say we do to have some kind of income coming in."

RELATED: How Houston-area school districts plan to reopen for 2020-21 school year

“For a lot of them they are very hesitant to get back on the bus. They are just taking a chance with their life just like everybody else,” said Wretha Thomas, president for the Houston Educational Support Personnel Union.

She says about1200 school bus drivers are being trained on new protocols and procedures.

According to the HISD Reopening Plan, those include the bus capacity being limited to 26 students. Each sits by a window. Routes will also be modified. Buses will go through daily cleaning and weekly deep cleaning.

RELATED: HISD launches virtual course to prepare parents for distance learning

Velma says it isn't enough.

“We can't even put a temperature gauge on the children because we are not even qualified for that, but ok they see us before they see anybody.”

“At no point do we want students to get on the bus and be infected and get all the students infected in the bus. Also, they are going to take the bus driver temperature automatically when they get there, so we need to take it a little further and take the kids' temperature before they get on the bus,” said Thomas.  

Thomas is asking the district to provide touchless thermometers so drivers can check the temperature of students before entering the bus.

“I think this will bring comfort to parents of kids that are riding the bus, and it will bring comfort to the bus drivers that are going to be transporting them to school,” said Thomas.

She says it will be a challenge to make sure the students are wearing a mask the entire time on the bus. The drivers will be wearing face shields.

“We expect HISD to keep not just our bus drivers, but all of our support personnel and all of our teachers and students to be as safe as possible," said Thomas.

We did reach out to HISD for comment and not yet received a response.