Issaquah Bus Drivers Show Resilience, Flexibility, Solidarity in COVID-19 Responseby Council 2 Staff on November 12, 2020
In early March, when school was canceled throughout Washington, Issaquah bus drivers weren’t sure what was coming next. Since then, drivers have been tasked with a variety of projects, including delivering meals for low-income families, transporting laptops and mobile hotspots for remote learning, and some are now driving students who are in special needs programs.
Even with students taking classes from home, drivers have played a critical role in keeping students learning.
“Issaquah school bus drivers care deeply for the students and families they serve. During this challenging time, when we are separated from our students and concerned about their well-being, we have welcomed the opportunities Issaquah School District has given us to continue to support students and their families,” said Heather McCrone, an Issaquah school bus driver since 2013 and Local 21-I Union Shop Steward.
The circumstances have been challenging, as something initially thought to last two weeks has expanded to seven months. For Christina and Vicki Gould, who are married and both Issaquah bus drivers, they are taking the pandemic “one day at a time,” finding the uncertainty difficult, especially not knowing when regular work will resume and what the plan and timeline to safely reopen schools will be.
Vicki Gould says the situation is still hard to imagine, “Who would have ever thought the school drivers would not be working?” At increased potential risk for the virus, she hasn’t been able to return to work and questions when it will be safe to resume driving – a concern also shared by some of the district’s older drivers.
Christina Gould, who also transported laptops and hotspots around the district, said that delivering meals was a good opportunity to see and visit with students. Now, as responsibilities have changed, she “really misses seeing students and being able to interact with them.”
They point to the support of fellow drivers as something that has helped get them through the pandemic, “All the drivers welcome us with open arms, and everybody sticks together, and everybody helps everybody when they can,” said Christina Gould. She adds that a silver lining of the pandemic has been seeing drivers “support each other.”
Drivers have also worked to keep up the morale of their students, producing a video slideshow to let their students know they missed them and were thinking about them.
“The school district put the slideshow on their website and students and their families were able to watch the video and see words of encouragement and caring from their driver,” said McCrone. “All 122 routes were represented, and substitute drivers participated as well.”
Watch the video drivers made for their students:
Issaquah bus drivers are looking forward to when they can return to regular work, but in the meantime, they are meeting the demands of the moment and helping to keep kids learning – showing the important impact bus drivers make supporting each other, their students, and our entire community.
Driver De Ernst helps deliver sack lunches available for children in the community 18 & under. Several buses picked up lunches from the high school each day and drove to multiple locations throughout the district to support local families.
Driver Heather McCrone’s message to her students.
Drivers made different signs to relay messages, some including their pets.