LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – School bus drivers from the second largest school district in the United States led a noisy protest caravan through downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, demanding federal and state funding to help reopen schools safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The drivers from the Los Angeles Unified Schools District (LAUSD) were joined by other vehicles as they circled city hall and honked their horns.
“Until they get conditions safe, I prefer us to be at home,” said John Lewis, a school bus driver, who has been in the job for 30 years. “I miss work. I love my job, I love the students, the people I work with but I understand why we can’t be at work right now because it’s just not safe.”
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles teachers union and local education officials agreed on a plan for resuming online-only classes at the end of August. California’s powerful teachers unions strongly oppose in-person instruction without safety measures that could be difficult and expensive to implement.
Such safety measures would likely require additional funding from the state and federal government.
Austin Beutner, superintendent of LAUSD, who joined the protesting drivers and other school staff, said investment was needed.
“Spread the desks, stay apart, wear a mask, clean and sanitize, redo the air filtration system. We’ve done all of those things. We also need to test for the virus and provide contact tracing at schools because schools could become a Petri dish,” Beutner said.
“Unless we have a health crisis turn into an education crisis, we need to make sure the funding is there for schools,” he said.
(Reporting by Omar Younis, Writing by Diane Craft, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)