School bus drivers speak on pandemic transportation plans

School bus drivers speak on pandemic transportation plans

PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - The Mississippi Teachers Unite not only brought teachers together as worries grow about going back to school.

As COVID-19 scares continue in the Pine Belt, school bus drivers are speaking up about social distancing on buses.

One local bus driver, who remains anonymous, talks about his worries on why social distancing might not work on school buses.

“2-3, or maybe 1-2, seats in between and that’ll give enough distance to social distance, but you’re still looking at that’s probably what? 15 kids to a bus,” said the bus driver. “If you can fit 40 kids on one bus two to a seat, you’ll be looking at putting 15 kids on a bus. Maybe less than that.”

The concern is that multiple trips will take place on bus routes just to ensure all students make it safely to campus and home.

“If you want to social distance on a bus, I’ve got to make three routes just to get all the kids to school to do that,” said the bus driver. “So many different factors says I can’t really technically do it.”

Buddy Rogers, a bus driver in Petal School District, said they’ve put together a set of guidelines for school buses during the pandemic.

For two weeks now, summer schools have been in session and Rogers said the district’s COVID-19 model safely gets students to school and home.

“Fall protocol right now [when] kids get on, they are going to have assigned seats,” said Rogers. “We are going to seat family units together. Well obviously, if there’s a health issue with a family unit, those brothers and sisters, if they sit together, you have isolated that issue and put spacing in between them, and we are going to monitor that.”

Here’s how students will get on and off each bus:

“Each individual bus has a hand spray station as students walk on. Each student will have a mask. When they get off the bus, I have a huge spray bottle. I spray every seat down,” said Rogers.

Rogers said communication is key in getting through the school year with COVID-19.

“If I’ve got a child that gets on and I’m concern about their health, I can pick up the radio and call the school bus barn and say, ‘Hey look, call PPS. Let the principal know I’ve got a student that I am concerned about,‘” said Rogers. “I moved them to the front. They are the first one off the bus. The school nurse catches them, separate them and they take a look at them. You deal with those situations one by one and you get them off the bus and hand them off to the professionals and let them handle it.”

“It’s really a matter of communicating and understanding what your role is and implementing the plan,” Rogers said.

Rogers said throughout the year, adjusting may have to be done to ensure safety for all students, but plans to do what’s best for the students.

Rogers added that about 70 percent of the students will begin the school year as car riders allowing buses to have proper social distance.

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