With school starting in less than a week, bus driver Lisa deMolitor knows she will be driving her usual route in Nova Scotia's Shelburne County -- but she still isn't sure what that will look like.
"I worry about my pre-primary and primaries that have never been on a bus. They're the ones that they may be crying that first day, and I'm going to help transition them from mommy's arms to the school," deMolitor said. "They're going to be nervous and I want to be able to put them all at ease, but I don't have the answers."
The Nova Scotia government has outlined guidelines for school bus providers, including National Passenger Services in Dartmouth -- one of three that services schools in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
"Every student has to wear a mask as well as the driver whenever they're on the bus or getting on or off," said Darryl Amirault of National Passenger Services. "Anything more than that, we don't want the students to see, we don't want to create any anxiety for them, so we're keeping it as low key as we possibly can."
That includes multiple cleanings a day, before and after students are picked up in the morning and dropped off in the afternoon.
"The backs of seats are very common for kids to be grabbing onto so we'll be washing all those down, spraying them with disinfectant," Amirault said.
Amirault confirms they have received many questions from drivers, and done their best to answer them in a comprhensive document that they wrote with input from the province and medical officials.
"Drivers have a lot of anxiety, just like the students do, around returning to school," says Amirault. "So we've done everything we can to mitigate that for them, all the different things we've gone through with testing, and getting to this point where we have the right procedure."
But deMolitor, who doesn't work for National Passenger Services, says she has many concerns.
"It's not consistent across the province," she said. "I talk to other bus drivers and other people in the education system across the province, it's different, how long I get to clean my bus versus how long they get. We all have the same bus, the same size and the same structure -- we need the same amount of time."
There is also the issue of how the mandatory mask policy will be enforced.
"From what I understand, we can't enforce it," says deMolitor. "There are going to be children that just can't wear a mask for whatever reason, so that concerns me."
Amirault says drivers do have the option of notifying the school if there is an ongoing problem with a student refusing to wear a mask.
Nan McFadgen is the president CUPE Nova Scotia and she has concerns because bus drivers already have a difficult job -- and now it's going to be even more challenging.
"There's not going to be physical distancing on the bus," McFadgen said. "There's no PlexiGlas in the back of the driver; we're told that's something that can't be done, although we understand in other provinces it is being done."
Outside of Halifax, buses are run by the local centres for education, and drivers like deMolitor belong to the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
"We've been trying to get answers to government for four months now and I still can't stand here and give you a complete picture of what our staff, including our bus drivers, can expect, because we don't know," McFadgen said.
But despite all the concerns, deMolitor says that driving her bus is a labour of love, and she is looking forward to the first day of school.
"Yes I have concerns, but on Tuesday, I'm going to have the biggest smile on my face under my mask, so hopefully it reaches my eyes, and every one of my kids will feel safe and feel okay. As normal as possible," says deMolitor.
With the first big test less than a week away, time is running out for drivers to get answers.