School Bus Safety and COVID-19

School Bus Safety and COVID-19

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School is back in session–if not back to normal. Kids still need to get to class, and for many of them, that means taking the bus. About a third of US students typically ride the bus to school, but with rotating schedules, class “pods,” and the ever-present threat of an outbreak, things are a lot more complicated this year.

Shorter Trips

School commutes can be brutal for kids, who may end up spending 45 minutes or more on the bus. That’s a long time even during a normal cold and flu season.

But during the coronavirus pandemic, it could be catastrophic. That’s why experts are recommending that schools plan shorter bus routes. 15 minutes is the ideal maximum that kids should spend in an enclosed space like a school bus.

Fewer Students

Shorter trips and fewer students might be the key to keeping everyone on board the school bus safe. Seating buses at half capacity will give students the chance to socially distance.

Of course, these measures present a logistical headache for school administrators. Many schools are experimenting with staggered start times or class pods that meet on different days.

It will almost certainly mean changing your routine at home–getting ready earlier in the morning, for example, or meeting the bus at a different time and location than you’re used to from previous school years.

Mandatory Masks

We’ve seen time and again that masks make a difference. When everyone wears them, the chances of transmission go way down. Getting kids to actually wear their masks is a challenge, however.

It’s important to have serious discussions with your children about wearing masks. Nobody enjoys it, but until we make it through the pandemic, it’s a fact of life.

It’s not just the kids’ health at risk. Many bus drivers are older adults who are particularly susceptible to getting sick from COVID-19. Use this opportunity to talk to your kids about empathy and social responsibility. Wearing a mask isn’t fun, but keeping their friends, teachers, and the friendly bus driver safe is more important.

Wellness Checks

If your child has a fever, they should stay home–period. Performing a wellness screening before anyone leaves the house is vital. That means taking your child’s temperature and screening for other symptoms, such as a cough.

Some school districts are performing temperature checks before students board the bus, too. Additional checks will happen as they enter the building. It might seem like excessive caution, but this situation is too serious to be cavalier about safety.

Just this week, students in Virginia Beach discovered that someone on a school bus tested positive for COVID. When that happens, everyone on the bus needs to quarantine for 14 days. Thorough wellness checks can help prevent this from happening, but asymptomatic carriers can still unknowingly spread the virus.

That’s why all of the safety steps above need to happen together. Talk to your school district about how they’re managing the public health crisis and ensure that your child will get to school safely.