Riding a school bus to school is historically the safest mode of transportation for children. Copperas Cove ISD bus drivers intend to keep it that way.

When students return to on-campus learning on Tuesday, bus drivers are prepared to sanitize high touch surfaces as each rider boards, and sanitize again in between routes. The CCISD Transportation Department will continue the tradition of providing excellent service to Copperas Cove students and campuses, said Gary Elliott, CCISD Director of Transportation.

“The drivers I cannot say enough about. They are the first contact for students in the morning and the last in the evening,” Elliott said.

Elliott says the pandemic gave transportation personnel time to deliver meals to senior citizens, get caught up on a backlog of work orders, and prepare for new bus routes, registration, and in-service scheduling.

The district employs 65 bus drivers and 22 aides. All have received extensive training in COVID-19 mitigation strategies including sanitizing their buses, taking students’ temperatures and other health and safety protocols. Drivers demonstrated their capabilities during the pandemic by transporting students to campuses for summer school, English as a second language classes, summer enrichment groups and Ranger Reading Camp while also continuing to keep fleet maintenance vehicles on the road.

Buses will be thoroughly disinfected after each bus trip, particularly high-touch surfaces such as bus seats, steering wheel, knobs, windows and door handles. During cleaning, drivers will open windows to allow for additional ventilation and air flow, which is helpful in mitigating COVID-19 spread.

“All buses have had a complete service preformed from front to rear. All buses have been cleaned thoroughly inside and out which has included replacing all of the seat covers and seat foam, tire replacement, the bumpers have been repainted, and required stickers have been replaced with new ones,” Elliott said.

Additionally, CCISD has reduced the number of students on a 78-passenger bus down to a maximum of only 52 students. The driver and all passengers on the bus including the student and the aide are required to wear face coverings.

Copperas Cove ISD has 91 buses in its fleet with a request to purchase two more at a cost of $110,000 each during the 2020-2021 school year. CCISD buses are equipped with a four-camera system with video cameras mounted in both the front and the rear and air conditioning. The proposed new buses would be replacements in CCISD’s fleet for two buses that date back to 1994. Elliott said the average replacement for a bus is 15 years but credits an experienced mechanical staff that keeps the buses functionally sound extending their lives in the fleet.

CCISD is in need of 11 additional drivers. Starting pay for bus drivers is $13.79 per hour with a guarantee of five hours per day. New drivers receive a $400 sign-on bonus with the district paying for their Class B Commercial Drivers’ License after one full year of employment. Candidates but possess a Class B CDL, P&S endorsements, and complete a 20-hour Department of Public Safety certification class for which the fee is paid by CCISD. Drivers must also pass a background check, driver record history check, and annual physical.

Elliott, his secretary, Bonnie Edmonds, and all employees in the transportation department are certified bus drivers to assist whenever a driver calls in sick or needs time away from work or the district is short on drivers.

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