School bus: drivers fear being contaminated by students

School bus: drivers fear being contaminated by students

School bus drivers fear being contaminated with COVID-19 by transporting infected students without knowing it, especially since the average age of these workers is quite high.

Cases of COVID-19 have been detected in hundreds of schools since the start of the school year. Students and teachers who have been in contact with infected young people have been informed by public health, then having to be tested and put in isolation.

Despite this, no information was given to the drivers of the school buses and sedans who transported these students. Most of them are therefore unaware of it, the Federation of Public Service Employees (FEESP-CSN) said in a statement on Wednesday.

Faced with this uncertainty, concern is gaining some drivers.

Portrait of Carole Laplante, president of the Syndicat des Travailleurs de Transco, in Lasalle, Montreal, Wednesday September 23, 2020. Ms. Laplante is worried about being in the presence of asymptomatic young people in school buses JOEL LEMAY / AGENCE QMI

“It's more difficult to keep the distance. Before, there were the first two free benches ”, explained Wednesday Carole Laplante, president of the Autobus Transco Montreal union which represents 380 workers.

The 57-year-old woman is in a good position to know: she herself leads kindergarten to grade six students in the Pointe-Saint-Charles area.

It is not always easy for a driver busy driving to enforce the sanitary instructions on the buses, especially when some young people do not have to wear the mask and others do, depending on their age.

“Sometimes it's difficult. Some are a little more rowdy than others, ”said Ms. Laplante of the students.

Average age

According to Ms. Laplante, bus drivers are at greater risk of developing complications from COVID-19, since their average age is over 50. It's not uncommon to have drivers over the age of 70, she said.

“We are nervous and worried, we can see it. Even if you wear a mask and a visor, there is always a certain risk. Sometimes, we can put our hand to the face without paying attention, because our glasses will fog up, ”said Ms. Laflamme.

Portrait of Carole Laplante, president of the Syndicat des Travailleurs de Transco, in Lasalle, Montreal, Wednesday September 23, 2020. Ms. Laplante is worried about being in the presence of asymptomatic young people in school buses JOEL LEMAY / AGENCE QMI

She says some drivers even go so far as to ask to stay home for fear of contracting COVID-19.

For the moment, the Ministry of Education is asking schools where a case occurs to notify parents and school staff, but not specifically transporters.

“Contacts in the bus must not be forgotten,” said Stephen P. Gauley, president of the school transport sector of the FEESP-CSN, specifying that students from several classes and sometimes from several schools use the same bus. in the same day.

The union is asking the ministry to change its rules to require information on COVID-19 cases to be passed on to drivers.

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