COVID-19 precautions in place for student school bus riders

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 6:28 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - It’s not just the classroom changing this year for students. School districts are also trying to make busing students to and from school as safe as possible.

Wichita drivers may have noticed yellow school buses driving around the city. First Student, which serves Wichita Public Schools, started dry runs on Monday to get ready for school beginning next week.

This year, it’s about more than just safety on the road. Bus drivers want to keep COVID-19 from becoming a passenger.

“Over six months really since school buses have been a natural part of our community, so, it’s very important that motorists remember that and start paying attention,” said First Student Training Program Manager Renee Boydo.

She added, “When you see the amber, yellow lights on on the bus, it means the bus is actively slowing down to be picking up students or dropping them off. And then when they’re red, we’re actively loading and unloading students. It’s important that we stop to ensure the safety of our students as they load, unload the bus. So remember, when it’s red, it means there are kids ahead.”

Transportation services are also paying attention to COVID-19.

It’s something busing companies have been working to prepare for the last several months.

“Masks will be required for students, drivers, aid, anyone who is on the bus and even for any type of activities that’s going anywhere, every occupant will be required to wear a mask,” said Derby Public Schools Transportation and Supply Supervisor Randall Collins

The Derby district’s transportation department and First Student, which serves Wichita Public Schools both say they’re loading buses from back to front and unloading front to back. Masks will also be provided to students that might have forgotten one. Siblings will be seated next to each other. Buses will be disinfected.

Collins said, “When we take everyone home after the bus comes back and the students are off, we’ll disinfect again, so they’ll be getting on a clean bus every time.”

Windows will be opened, weather permitting.

“Consistent airflow through the bus, in and out of the bus, that’s going to mitigate that risk as much as possible,” said Boydo.

Derby is also taking the step of temperature screening each student before getting on the bus.

In Wichita, the district and First Student are asking parents to help with screening. If a student with COVID-19 rides the bus, both districts say they have a plan in place.

“Those procedures have everything from advanced disinfectant of the bus itself, contact tracing and making sure we do everything to keep additional children coming into the schools as safe as possible,” said Boydo.

Collins said flexibility is the biggest request he’s asking from Derby families.

“Just be patient with us. We’re going through the same changes, it’s changing our world as it is theirs,” he said.

Transportation services said these measures are needed because social distancing on a bus would leave it practically empty.

Collins said, “A lot of the buses you see behind me, they have a maximum capacity of 78 students. That’s three per seat, with social distancing rules in effect, we could only put eight students on there at a time. So, if we would actually have to social distance, we’d have to watch our routing and figure out what students we’re going to take to school on what particular day. It is a little difficult to distance on a bus.”

One factor that is helping transportation departments this fall is both districts are offering students the option to learn remotely, so to start, there will be lower ridership and making social distancing measures more feasible.

Collins said, “We have told drivers, as they plan their routes out, be aware, when the first nine weeks end, those students who are remote now, might revert back to in-person so the routing might completely change.”

First Student Wichita also said they replaced half of their bus fleet before the start of this school year.

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