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Bus drivers work as daytime cleaners during pandemic

Added hours offset time lost to fewer bus trips

Wyoming With a hospital-grade bottle of sanitizer in hand, Sue Hubscher walks the halls of West Elementary School, spraying surfaces including exterior doors, doorknobs and other places often touched by little fingers.

“I think I go around the school at least 20 times a day,” said Hubscher, who spends two or three shifts a week from 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. sanitizing the school. As she walks, she waves at students passing by in single-file lines. 

She spends the rest of her workday as she has for the past 22 years, driving a bus for Wyoming Public Schools. She enjoys transporting elementary students to and from school, getting to know them along the way and over the years. “I like being with the kids and I have good patience,” she said.

Now she and five other bus drivers including her sister, Kelly Sokoloski   are filling another important role in the district between morning and afternoon runs. They are serving as daytime cleaners  specifically to sanitize surfaces and empty trash to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Sue Hubscher prepares a spray bottle for sanitation at West Elementary School

The district received approximately $2 million from various federal sources to cover increased expenses to combat COVID. The amount projected to go toward increased custodial staffing and sanitization supplies and equipment is around $350,000, said Matt Lewis, assistant superintendent for finance & administrative services.

The bus drivers’ increased services are in addition to those of the district’s 22-member custodial and maintenance staff that served nine buildings, said Don Hebeler, director of operations and support services. They are needed to keep up with extra cleaning needs during the pandemic.

Having the bus drivers work as part-time custodians adds hours to their workweek during a time where there are no field trips, fewer extracurricular activities and fewer students taking the bus. Hubscher said the added hours spent cleaning give her to the number of work hours needed to qualify for insurance.

It’s also a plus to have familiar faces inside the schools, Hebeler said.

“Having the bus drivers as our cleaners is nice because they know a lot of the kids,” he said. “They are such caring people. They want to do the best for the kids: get them to school safely and keep them in school.”

Bus driver Sue Hubscher drives her morning bus route

Keeping Things Spic and Span

Sanitation requirements are stringent under the MI 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap including cleaning surfaces like light switches, doors, benches, bathrooms and playground equipment every four hours.

West Elementary specials teacher Laurie Muntter said she’s thankful for the added custodial crew. There’s been a team effort made by staff and students for school to operate successfully.

“We really appreciate them. They are doing a fabulous job. Our numbers of COVID have been down and controlled. I think we are doing good work here.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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