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Manitoba school bus drivers worry about lack of enforcement of COVID-19 rules

Click to play video 'School bus driver concerns' School bus driver concerns
As the school year draws closer and kids get ready to take their seat on the school bus, drivers are raising concerns. Whose job is it to enforce the province's new rules? Brittany Greenslade reports – Aug 26, 2020

With thousands of children heading back to school amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and boarding buses to get there, concerns are being raised about who is going to be monitoring those kids for symptoms.

“Two weeks away and nothing has been done,” CUPE Manitoba President Abe Araya said.

CUPE represents bus drivers across 25 school divisions in the province and is calling for a second adult to be on board each bus to help enforce the province’s mask mandate and seat restrictions.

“It can’t fall on the driver,” Araya said.

“The bus driver should be concentrating strictly on the safety of driving the kids and getting them from point A to point B.”

The union said a second person on each bus should be responsible for making sure children stay in their assigned seats and keep their masks on.

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READ MORE: Winnipeg divisions working on school bus solutions before classes begin

As of right now, no division contacted by Global News has said a second adult will be on board.

The province’s guidelines for the return to school mandates the wearing of masks on school buses for all students in grades 5-12. Currently, there is no one on the bus to enforce it.

The Louis Riel School Division told Global news that if a student refuses to wear a mask, the bus driver will let the student board the bus to get to school, however, school administrators will be contacted and be in touch with the parent.

The bus driver will also fill out a school bus behaviour report to record the student’s behaviour.

Click to play video 'School bus drivers raise concerns over COVID-19' School bus drivers raise concerns over COVID-19
School bus drivers raise concerns over COVID-19 – Aug 25, 2020

The Seven Oaks School Division said students who try to board the bus without a mask will be provided one by the driver but they will be looking to educate children who don’t follow the rules.

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“We will take an educative approach to the wearing of masks in schools and on buses as we do with all behaviour issues,” Superintendent Brian O’Leary said.

Another major issue the union has pointed to is allowing sick children to still board the bus.

Children in Grade 4 and above do not need to be accompanied by an adult and if a child who is sick is at their bus stop, they will be allowed on the bus.

Global News has learned the rule remains unchanged from previous years, meaning if a student shows up to the bus with symptoms they will be allowed to board the bus and then are to be isolated when they arrive at school until a parent/guardian can pick them up.

READ MORE: Manitoba pledges $52M in new funding to divisions for back to school amid coronavirus

“The bus driver cant leave the kids at -20 weather,” Araya said.

“You’re going to have kids going on the bus, contaminating the kids around them, going into the schools, walking around the schools and then the parents being called,” he said.

The province refused to tell Global News if it would be mandated any changes be made, instead saying it has provided funding to help divisions with resources.

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“The $100 million in Safe Schools funding announced [Tuesday] includes provisions for additional resources related to busing and transportation,” a provincial spokesperson told Global News via email. “Busing is administered by the individual school divisions and our government is confident that they will take the appropriate measures to keep students safe.”
Click to play video 'Union representing over 2,500 Ontario school bus drivers worried for members safety amid pandemic' Union representing over 2,500 Ontario school bus drivers worried for members safety amid pandemic
Union representing over 2,500 Ontario school bus drivers worried for members safety amid pandemic – Aug 25, 2020