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13OYS Morning's Emily Scarlett gets behind the wheel to encourage school bus driver applications

Dean Transportation leaders say with the pandemic still in full force, they’re doing everything they can to protect students and staff from the virus.

COVID-19 safety measures inside the classroom are on the minds of many with schools back in session. But how about inside school buses, even smaller spaces? 

13 ON YOUR SIDE’s Emily Scarlett got the chance to visit with Dean Transportation this week to find out what they’re doing to keep students safe, and even got a chance to get behind the wheel.

Dean Transportation leaders say with the pandemic still in full force, they’re doing everything they can to protect students and staff from the virus.

Kevin Harkness is the Kent County Regional Manager with Dean Transportation. He says, “We have some very stringent protocols.”

The company provides busing services to school districts across West Michigan and is continuing with the same level of protocols that were in place during the times they were operating last school year.

“Drivers have masks and shields, if necessary. Students are masking up on the bus. We still have our hand sanitizers. Our buses are cleaned between every run,” said Harkness.

Plus, all the seats and surfaces have been treated with what’s called MicroCare, Harkness says, “To repel viruses like flu, COVID.”

Also, much like last year, the year before and the year before that, Dean Transportation officials say they need more bus drivers and bus monitors.

“I’d say for the past five years we’ve seen that struggle increase,” said Nicky Soule, Dean Transportation’s West Regional Operations Manager.

The company is hoping more job seekers will take an interest. So, they let 13 ON YOUR SIDE’s Emily Scarlett get behind the wheel. No, not on an actual street, but on the Dean Transportation training course for bus drivers.

Soule says, “You know, it’s not as scary as you think it is. Once you get behind the wheel you stop thinking about, ‘Oh, it’s such a big vehicle. How can I handle this?”

She also stressed that it’s a position offering much more than just a place to clock in.

“This is an essential, meaningful career. It truly is. You’re the first person that that child is going to see in the morning before they get to school, and you’re the last one and that makes all the different to an awful lot kids,” said Soule.

The application process can be rigorous with mandatory testing, background checks and don’t forget you’ll need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Dean Transportation managers say they’ll help you along the way, offering paid training and all the practice you need to get that CDL.

Right now, there are about 50 open positions across West Michigan.

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