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A Kansas City bus driver is happy to see students back in school: 'It makes the time go by faster'

Maxine Mitchell takes a break from her shift driving a shuttle at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Maxine Mitchell takes a break from her shift driving a shuttle at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Maxine Mitchell, a bus driver for UMKC and local school districts, says she's grateful to have students returning to her routes, but she's noticed changes in behaviors since the pandemic began.

As the U.S. ends its second calendar year of the COVID-19 pandemic, KCUR wanted to hear from members of the greater Kansas City community about their experiences and reflections.

If you've hopped on a bus around the campus of University of Missouri-Kansas City recently, you might have caught a ride with Maxine Mitchell. Mitchell has been driving buses for 30 years, and at the university since the summer of 2020.

During the pandemic, staffing shortages have meant that she often works 10 to 12-hour days. During those long shifts, she's seen up close how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected local students.

"When I first started, that's when college first started opening up, classes were online, so we didn't have a whole lot of ridership," Mitchell tells KCUR's Nomin Ujiyediin. "Now since college has opened up and it's face to face, we've had more riders."

Interview highlights

On how she's been personally affected by the pandemic

It's been kinda like a roller coaster, especially now since this new variant has come, and it's like unreal. A lot of people we know have come down with it.

My son has come from Texas to come up here, to live with us. He has underlying health conditions. He had COVID when he was in Texas and he lived by himself. He had lost his sense of taste and smell and it affected his head, his sinuses a lot. And my daughter up here in Kansas City had it also.

On the changes she's seen in students since the pandemic

The kids on the yellow school — the public schools — the atmosphere of the kids has gotten to be more, they're louder. They're a little more disrespectful and such, cause they're just coming back and things have changed for them also.

On the differences between 2020 and 2021

We have more students now, which makes it a lot easier. Cause when there's more people on the bus, it makes the time go by faster. You know, there's someone to talk to. At first there wasn't anyone riding, and it makes it a long day, you know, the traffic and no one to talk to, no one to associate with. But I enjoy the students from other countries. I learn about their cultures, their religion, and such as that, their customs.

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