Whitney Russell
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School Bus Transportation Concerns as COVID-19 Lingers On

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Photo: Dede via Pixabay

Going back to school might look differently for a lot of children and young adults this fall. As districts and institutions finalize the structure of courses and classrooms, they must also figure out transportation. The conventional school bus system wasn’t designed to keep bus drivers and students safe from a pandemic like COVID-19. Here are just some of the challenges facing them this upcoming school year.

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One of the main dilemmas is how to limit the number of students that can ride on each bus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends one child per seat, every other row. The National Council on School Facilities and Cooperative Strategies suggests different seating arrangements, depending on whether or not students wear masks or not. If all students wear masks, then the seating layout could be one student per seat, alternating left and right positions. Without masks, then students could sit one person every other row with alternating sides.

Another concern is how to protect medically vulnerable students. Some school boards are considering reserving a specific seat on the bus for such students. School staff would practice stringent sanitization of this seat to help reduce COVID-19 exposure risk. Other school boards might reimburse parents or school staff to transport these students in separate vehicles.

The lack of bus drivers is another challenge that stands in the way of students safely returning to school this autumn. The National Association for Pupil Transportation indicated that more than 90 percent of school districts had bus driver shortages before the pandemic. The pandemic will likely exacerbate this shortage, especially when you consider that a lot of school bus drivers are 65 years of age or older and have a higher risk for contracting COVID-19.

Drivers will need to wear personal protective equipment and buses will need to be sanitized more often and more thoroughly. In addition, two other concerns are how to enforce social distancing for children on buses and ensure sufficient airflow and ventilation on the bus to help lessen the chance of infection.

The coming school year will be different in every school district. Make sure you watch your local media outlets to learn the plan for your area and prepare.

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