COVID-19 Wreaks Havoc on WCPSS Buses

Green Hope Feels the Pain of Bus Driver Shortages

As+COVID-19+continues+to+alter+every+day+life%2C+Green+Hope+students+are+feeling+the+impact+of+a+shortage+of+bus+drivers.++Principal+Dr.+Camille+Hedrick+says%2C+It%E2%80%99s+nobody%E2%80%99s+fault.+Everyone+is+impacted.

Megan Lee of Unsplash

As COVID-19 continues to alter every day life, Green Hope students are feeling the impact of a shortage of bus drivers. Principal Dr. Camille Hedrick says, “It’s nobody’s fault. Everyone is impacted.”

Noreen Mohamed, News Editor

Due to the increasing COVID-19 cases within North Carolina, many individuals have had to isolate themselves in order to protect others and reduce spikes of COVID-19.  However, with thousands isolating daily, many crucial employees of the state have not been able to fulfill their roles. This problem has transcended into the school system across the state, specifically methods of transportation. 

The shortage increased as soon as the new year started.  According to WRAL News more than 150 Wake County School bus drivers have been absent due to the surge in cases since January 2022. Changes to transportation and bus routes of the county’s approximately 75,000 bus-riding students have taken place.  Although a large impact on students is academic, these challenges aren’t just restricted to the students’ academic lives. 

Green Hope senior, Talha Nazim, is one of many students that rely on school-based transportation.  “My parents have had to be more mindful of how near or far they are, especially in the afternoon in case my route isn’t covered that day,” stated Talha Nazim.

When asked about whether or not he and his family believed the county was doing enough to resolve the issue, he stated, “I think given the scale of the worker shortage beyond just bus drivers, the county is trying, but I do wish that they would notify students on a larger scale in the morning like they do for the afternoon run by using the announcements. A tweet would be an easier way to know if certain routes won’t be running in the morning instead of having to check the log on the website.”

The impacts of the pandemic, however, do not end at transportation conflicts for students. 

Green Hope bus driver Jill Depeppo stated that “Catching COVID-19” is her current largest concern as a bus driver in the midst of a pandemic.  

Depeppo also feels as though Wake County Schools could get involved instead of having to handle the shortage only at Green Hope.  “Yes, I think they could… we’re working longer and harder because there aren’t as many bus drivers, so that does impact all of us,” said Depeppo.

While the bus driver shortage impacts students and bus drivers, the challenge has also been felt by many Wake County Public School administrators.  Green Hope Assistant Principal Ms. Nina Scott-Emuakpor is in charge of transportation at Green Hope.  Ms. Scott stated, “Because of COVID-19 and the bus driver shortage, I’ve had a lot more parent phone calls because routes are constantly changing.  There are so many personal things going on in everyone’s homes. They’re concerned about family members. They’re concerned about themselves with COVID-19 regardless of anything that they’ve done to keep themselves healthy.”

With shortage issues due to possible COVID-19 exposures, tardies have also been significantly affected. The shortage

“We’re working longer and harder because there aren’t as many bus drivers, so that does impact all of us.”

— Bus Driver Jill Depeppo

has now caused student participation in class to become a concern.

Green Hope principal, Dr. Camille Hedrick weighed in on the issue.  “The teachers are constantly impacted when they have to adjust their lessons, which impacts the students who want to do well in their classes…and the parents are impacted because they’re trying to get to work. It’s nobody’s fault. Everyone is impacted,” stated Dr. Hedrick.

The unprecedented times of the pandemic, however, have enabled families at Green Hope to empower themselves to assist in the shortage.  Partly due to the new Omicron variant in addition to the previous COVID-19 variants, parents have had to adjust to the changing times, and they are stepping up to the challenge.

“Our parents have done such a great job of being flexible in getting that alternative transportation for their children, and we’re really grateful for that,” says Ms. Scott. 

The question as to when the pandemic will cease to further impact our community on a school level is yet to be known. But, although it has caused disorder in the transportation system of various schools across the state, it has also brought Falcon families together in an attempt to make the most of the unfamiliar circumstances.