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Keeping kids safe from COVID-19 on the school bus

School bus companies have a list of extra safety guidelines that they must follow this school year to try and stop the spread of COVID-19.

MINNEAPOLIS — It's a challenging time for school bus companies as they try to hire enough drivers for the new school year, and adapt to new state safety guidelines amid the pandemic. Some districts are not doing in-person learning, but many are, which had us wondering how bus companies will try to keep kids safe.

"In transportation we want to support the schools, we don't want to limit. It's hard for us to say 'you can't do that,' it's like 'how can we make this work for you?'" said John Thomas President of the Minnesota Association for Pupil Transportation.

Thomas said under state guidelines bus companies must do the following:

  • Buses can be loaded up to 50% capacity. He said that equates to about 35-40 kids per bus depending on the size of the bus.
  • Drivers must be at least six feet from students, so the first and second seats behind the driver may be blocked off.
  • Everyone must wear a mask.
  • Weather permitting all windows must stay open.
  • Buses will be deep cleaned at least once per day.
  • Drivers must go through a medical checklist each day.
  • When picking up students, the bus must be loaded back to front, and when dropping off, the bus must be unloaded front to back

Another question we asked is what if a bus is overloaded? Will students be turned away? Thomas said many companies are working to have a response vehicle in case they have to pick up kids last-minute.

These changes are a lot for everyone, as bus companies try to figure out how many students will actually ride this fall.

Thomas said the best way parents can help drivers is to be patient and don't switch plans last minute.

"It'll be hard is if we start school and a week into the school year a family sits there and says 'well this isn't working out for us we're going to put our child on the bus tomorrow.' Well, we may not have a seat for them on the bus tomorrow. So contact your transportation department, let them know you want to change your status and they'll tell you when is the next available time they can make that work," said Thomas.

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