With area schools deploying their plans for a return to classroom teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, among the concerns being raised is transportation logistics. From limitations on bus service to questions around bus capacity, cleanliness and safety, many parents are concerned about how their children will get to and from school this fall – and how safe they will be while doing so.
As many as 25 million students nationwide use buses to get to and from school. But this year, a drastic reduction in the number of available seats on buses to comply with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will leave many students scrambling for alternative transportation plans.
As a result of following guidance from the CDC, which calls for disinfecting surfaces and leaving alternating rows of seats empty to avoid crowding, there will be a shortage of seats on school buses entering this school year. Where school buses can seat as many as 65 passengers, some will be limited to as few as 20.
Compounding the problem is resistance in some areas by bus drivers’ unions to have drivers in buses that have not been retrofitted to help protect the driver from exposure to the virus. So in addition to fewer seats on the buses, it is expected there will be fewer buses on which to ride.
Driving Kids to School Suggested
In the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan area, guidance to parents on transportation has varied from school to school and district to district. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has suggested parents drive their children to school this year – a suggestion that has been met with criticism in a city where many families do not own a car, but one that has been echoed elsewhere.
In some districts, buses will be limited to one student per seat, unless they live in the same household. Others are considering assigned seating, loading the bus from the rear forward and leaving every other row empty. In some locations, bus service is being reduced such that more students will be considered “walkers” where they previously had bus service. Increasing the number of students walking to school has led to concerns among transportation experts in the region regarding pedestrian safety.
Leaders at schools staggering their schedules or operating on a hybrid in-person / at-home schedule say the approach will allow for students to be driven to school without substantial increases in traffic. But, as has been the case in many aspects of pandemic response, a good rule of thumb is to expect the unexpected.
Safe Ride Corp. has a Solution
Safe Ride Corp. also offers a safe alternative – having a recently retired police officer drive the kids to school in their family car. Travelling in the same car they ride in with their parents and family, versus a bus used by dozens of passengers throughout the day, can reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Of course, the option also provides the safety and security of an experience former member of law enforcement in the car – a source of added comfort when today’s “peaceful protests” can become less peaceful.