BOSTON (CBS) – Boston school bus drivers are demanding answers as the district starts planning a potential return to class in the fall. So far, they say their voices are not being heard.
“The first meeting we had with them was a Zoom meeting on Tuesday,” said the president of the Boston School Bus Drivers Union, Andre Francois. “Everybody’s uncertain, nobody’s telling us anything.”
USW Local 8751 represents more than 1,000 drivers and bus monitors. Their contractor is transport operator Transdev, an agent of Boston Public Schools. Francois says both the company and the district are ignoring their concerns. Four of its drivers have died after contracting COVID-19 and many of its drivers worked during the height of the emergency, delivering food to students.
“Hand-washing, the wearing of gloves, the masks, social distancing, we were the ones making sure all that happened,” Francois said.
Union leaders say Transdev has failed to follow safety precautions while operating under a state emergency. In a May 29 email to Boston Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, the union’s financial secretary wrote: “Not a single worker at the operation – has ever seen nor received direct evidence of the phantom “auto-body” company that Transdev claims it has contracted to daily disinfect the buses and our worksite facility. We have reported for 2 months and collected evidence and testimony of fraudulent documentation, nepotism, and unqualified persons and procedures in this deal which puts thousands of peoples’ lives at risk.”
“That’s exactly the level of detail we have to think about,” said Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang. “What’s the plan for disinfecting buses? What’s the plan even for bus stops? There’s definitely a reliance on transportation. The majority of our schools are not the type where parents are driving by and dropping them [students] off. That’s not the reality in our urban school district.”
Tang says high-level talks with district leaders continue. On Monday, the two largest teachers’ unions in the state submitted their own proposal, demanding a phased re-opening.
“We are working as hard as we can with the district to figure out how to bring students back in-person in the most safe and equitable way possible,” said Tang. “We need to really think about who are the students who need to be back in-person, where remote learning is just not working at all.”
In a statement to WBZ-TV, Boston Schools said: “BPS is currently developing plans for three fall reopening scenarios, which include any potential transportation needs and associated costs. Those discussions remain ongoing with various stakeholders, including our bus drivers. We look forward to continued engagement with the BPS community in fall reopening discussions during our virtual public meetings beginning next week.”