Knox County Schools bus drivers contemplating masking order protest

After lengthy discussion, bus drivers decided not to go through with the service halt, a spokesperson with the drivers said in a release.
Published: Sep. 25, 2021 at 4:39 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 25, 2021 at 8:16 PM EDT
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Mask Fallout in Knox County Schools

Knox County Schools bus contractors are contemplating a possible halt in service to protest Friday's federal masking order. Here's what we know now:

Posted by WVLT on Saturday, September 25, 2021

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Knox County Schools bus contractors held an emergency meeting Saturday at Piney Grove Baptist Church to discuss the possibility of halting bus services in protest to the court order implementing a mask mandate in Knox County Schools.

Around 230 of the 346 contractors the school district keeps on hand were at the meeting.

After lengthy discussion, bus drivers decided not to go through with the service halt, a spokesperson with the drivers said in a release. Bus drivers felt that the lack of warning to students and parents about the lack of transportation to schools could pose a danger. The drivers agreed to continue bus services until courts clarify the order.

WVLT News spoke with one of Knox County Schools’ bus contractors Tammy Williams, who said drivers can have a hard time enforcing the rules.

“It’s tough driving the bus anyway... but putting a mask on and trying to make the kids wear a mask,” she said. “It’s just... it’s tough.”

She also said at the end of the day she and the bus drivers just want to do their jobs.

“In the end we all want to do our job we all want to get the kids to school safe but what is it going to take? When does it all stop? One says to do this, one says to do that. We’re all fighting over what we all think of our personal opinion you know lets just be nice to each other and do what’s best for everyone in the end,” she said.

Knox County Schools officials spoke with WVLT News and released a statement on the possible halt in service.

“We work with bus contractors on a daily basis to provide bus service to our students. We are not asking them to do anything different than they did last year. If a student does not have a mask, we are requesting that they offer them one. Any other action would be the responsibility of Knox County Schools,” the statement said. “We are very appreciative of our drivers and contractors and the service they provide to our students an families.”

The court order was released Friday. Under the order, Knox County Schools must reestablish the same masking mandate it had in place for the 2020-2021 school year. Superintendent Bob Thomas announced shortly after that the district plans to comply with the order, at least while legal experts continue to evaluate it.

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