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The Texas Department of Public Safety is reminding all state school districts that installing shields or barriers that separate the bus driver from the students, and students from each other, are prohibited.
The statement issued on May 29 discusses the various solutions school districts and transportation departments have recently been considering to keep both staff and students safe against the spread of exposure of COVID-19, as they are transporting students again to and from school post the pandemic. Summer school started on June 1, and districts can choose to transport students via the yellow school bus. The new ideas include installing a plexiglass driver shield or enclosure that would separate the driver from the students.
The statement noted that Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) prohibit the installation of any such barrier or shield on school buses. Texas DPS reminded districts that the Texas School Bus Specifications state that all public and private school buses in Texas that are used to transport children to and from school and school-related events “shall meet all applicable FMVSS.”
David Uecker, director of transportation for Hutto Independent School District, located north of Austin, said at one time the district did look at the possibility of erecting a barrier. But it quickly nixed the idea.
“We are not going to alter the bus. If we do anything, we are going to alter the driver’s equipment, possibly [providing] a face shield for the driver,” Uecker explained. “Rather than shielding the bus, we would shield the driver with something that is clear, transparent, and that does not affect their vision at all.” ”However, he added that curved face shields could produce glare that could distract or even blind the driver. “It’s not a perfect world,” he added.