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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new set of recommendations that details a plan for reopening America, including regulations that school transportation departments should adhere to.
On March 13, President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, restaurants have closed for dining, malls have shut down and sports have ceased, among many other initiatives to slow the spread. These initiatives also included closing school buildings and many students were suddenly expected to learn online, or in a distance learning model.
Since then, transportation departments got creative and continued running their operations as meal and school supply delivery to students in need. School buses that are equipped with Wi-Fi routers were parked in areas with limited broadband internet access, or in locations where families couldn’t afford service that is compatible with school district eLearning programs.
Over two months later, America is starting to see some reprieve from states “Safer at Home” orders. However, many transportation directors confessed confusion as to what reopening would look like, adding that bouncing back from the pandemic is going to be harder than shutting down.
In a recent School Transportation News survey, many respondents said they were awaiting CDC or state guidelines to be announced before they start planning for the next school year, which could consist of health screening students prior to boarding the school bus, limited capacity routes, and multiple runs throughout the day. This week’s guidance detailed concerns and documented how social distancing might take effect in school districts and school buses.
For schools, measures include keeping students and teachers together as much as possible. It also advises canceling all inter-group events such as field trips and extracurricular activities, spacing seating and desks to six feet apart, and turning desks to all face the same direction.
The CDC said all cafeterias, dining halls and playgrounds should be closed. Instead, it advocates for serving meals in classrooms to promote social distancing. It also stated that hallways should be one-way directional walking paths, so students aren’t passing one another.
Arrival and drop-off locations and/or times should also be staggered and adjusted, or protocols should be in place to adhere to social distancing with parents or care givers are dropping off students.
Social distancing should also be considered on the school bus, and the CDC recommended seating one child per seat, every other row. When discussing what it would look like, many transportation directors shared that they would have to reduce their capacity by at least 50 percent.