JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A federally-mandated mask requirement on buses has been in place since the beginning of the school year, and now Johnson City Schools (JCS) and partners Johnson City Transit (JCT) are cracking down.
Those who don’t comply could face a two-day suspension by Johnson City Transit.
According to Dr. Greg Wallace, JCS Supervisor of School Safety and Mental Health, buses are one place where the school system’s mask “opt-out option” does not apply.
“It’s been the past few days where some of the discipline has started to be put out to different families, which has been less than 25 families,” Wallace said. “We want to keep students safe, we want to keep faculty safe, and certainly keep our bus drivers safe. All of those folks are very important for us, and we just want to make sure that we’re following the appropriate protocols.”
The school system has faced staff shortages throughout the year. Right now, buses are operating with 49 drivers, but 54 drivers would be the full capacity.
“We have no substitute bus drivers, and when we have a bus driver that’s out whether they’re quarantined, or whether they’re sick with COVID, that means we have to close a route down,” Wallace said.
Wallace thinks the school system is the only one in the state to have a city transit operation, and it’s a relationship he calls “incredible.”
“It’s great for us to have a very professional staff over there that does this professionally for a living, that does it well,” Wallace said. “Since I’ve been involved with this, we’ve always been able to deliver our students safely and on time to homes.”
During the year so far, the school system has had to close five bus routes after lacking staff, but as of Wednesday, routes are running as normal.