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Beyond teachers concerns: service personnel workers share their thoughts on returning to school

Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 7:17 PM EDT
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NORTH CENTRAL, W.Va (WDTV) - Other school employees are sharing there concerns about having students return to the classroom.

“I worry about, and I’m sure as well as my fellow workers, that we all worry about bringing this home to our spouses and our kids,” Monongalia County bus driver, Robert Stoller said. “I personally have foster kids that we’re taking care of so it’s scary,” he said.

What he’s voicing as his concerns with returning to school, are what many bus drivers and other service personnel workers are also worried about.

“The work that the service personnel is responsible for doing is the very work that will protect the students and families across this state.”

“The biggest concern they’re having is safety for themselves and for their families,” the executive director of the West Virginia Service Personnel Association (WVSSPA), Joe White said.

“There are drivers that are working that either they have cancer or, like with me, my wife has cancer so that’s a concern for me to be in such a small space driving and transporting kids,” Stoller said.

“I’m also a special needs bus driver and there’s quite a few in Mon County,” he said. “It’s hard enough to keep kids in a seat and most buses have over 70 passengers on them,” Stoller said. “For example, a kid with autism--it would be impossible to have them wear a mask in school or even at a bus stop.”

With the concern of safety, White said their next biggest concern is uncertainty.

“They’re saying alright, when do we start? What do we do? How is this going to affect my insurance? How is this going to affect my payday? Those are questions that they have and legitimate concerns,” White said.

Those concerns are even more so after the governor’s briefing on Wednesday. Gov. Justice said that service personnel workers are going to be on the frontline for most of what is needed to operate the schools.

“With the governor’s plan, it’s to transport students to school, transport students to hot spots that they’re going to create, transport students to ball practice, to band practice, it’s almost impossible,” White said.

“We’ve got a shortage of bus drivers now, I mean how are we going to fill all of these positions,” Sherri Talkington, the Harrison County and state president of WVSSPA said.

Even with all of the concerns, Talkington said to handle the situation properly, it requires two things.

“To make everybody safe, they’re going to have to go with science and facts, it can’t be anything other,” she said.

Both Talkington and White said the same thing about needing to follow science and facts in this situation... but White added that it would be helpful if county boards of education and the governor invited personnel workers in to hear what they consider a good idea for their safety and the students.

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