Navigating a pandemic

This article explains the experience of LM’s bus drivers throughout the pandemic and includes an interview.

Graphic by Emma Liu ’22/Staff

The coronavirus pandemic has been a difficult and challenging time for everyone. LM students, teachers, staff, and parents were required to make adjustments to their routines and adapt to life under pandemic restrictions. LMSD’s transportation department was also required to adapt to the “new normal” like other departments districtwide. However, the drivers were able to maintain their mission to ensure that the students arrived at school and returned home safely and on time.

Senior bus driver John Sandlof, who has worked for nearly 37 years, communicated, “I have driven the same route for over 34 years. I have students in twelfth grade that haven’t had any other bus driver than me since kindergarten.” Sandlof thought quarantine would last for the rest of last school year and that students and staff would be back full-time in September. He spoke about his quarantine experience: “The hardest thing was getting used to not being at work and not seeing the kids and not knowing if all the kids that I’ve driven are okay and staying healthy.” Over the course of the quarantine, students were not physically in school, but the bus drivers were still able to play a role in transportation within the district. Sandlof was helping deliver meals to a distribution point in Suburban Square for students who rely on the district’s meal plan. Of that experience, he said, “I worked with Food Services to help get the meals to the children in the district. I drove the bus that the employees rode, plus some of the supplies they needed to enable them to distribute the meals to the kids.”

Throughout the community, many parents and students were concerned about the precautions being taken by bus drivers to keep the buses clean and safe when students started the fall hybrid schedule. According to Sandlof, “We’re trained to spray the buses and wipe them down between every run so that we try to make sure that the seats are sanitized.” He also said, “We make sure that every student has a mask, us drivers all have our masks on, and we do have extra and spare masks on the bus so if there is a student that forgets one, we have masks that are available to them.” Finally, regarding the recent hybrid schedule and being able to transport LMSD’s students once again, Sandlof expressed, “I love having the kids on the bus. I really, really missed having the children on the bus. So, for me, having the kids on the bus was a good thing. As a father and a grandfather I know that kids do need structure in the schools. I think the students are happy to be back at school.”

Sandlof and his fellow colleagues have been tirelessly working to keep busses clean for the safety of all students districtwide. “We would never want to put any child in a dangerous situation. And we’re doing our best as drivers to ensure the health and safety of every child that we transport,” he said. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, LMSD bus drivers have continued to do what’s necessary to maintain the transportation system. So the next time you see your bus driver, don’t forget to thank them for their service.