Pine Belt superintendents say buses pose biggest COVID-19 challenge

Pine Belt superintendents say buses pose biggest COVID-19 challenge

FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - As Pine Belt schools continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and work to create safe learning environments for students in the classrooms, superintendents say buses pose the biggest COVID-19 challenge.

Forrest County Superintendent Brian Freeman said social distancing has been working in classrooms.

“Our close contact numbers are down because we’ve been able to spread everybody out further than 6 feet,” Freeman said.

But he added that it’s hard to accomplish on school buses.

“We were able to do that in our buses early on, but as more people come back from the virtual setting, to the regular classroom, the buses are becoming more crowded and we can’t separate as many” Freeman said.

Petal Superintendent Matt Dillion said buses pose a similar challenge for the Petal School District.

“The buses are challenging because there’s only so many seats on a bus,” Dillon said. “We’ve encouraged our parents to bring their kids to school if at all possible and they’ve done a wonderful job of doing that, but there’s just certain times that you can’t do that.”

Dillion said the district seats family members together on buses and spreads out seating as much as possible.

In the Forrest County School District, Freeman said the bus routes are shorter and buses are still not driving at 100%. Masks are required on buses at all times.

Freeman said buses are where the Forrest County School District does most of its contact tracing.

“Unfortunately, those are where our biggest quarantine numbers seem to be coming from, is our buses,” Freeman said.

Both superintendents encourage parents to drive and drop off their children at school as often as possible.

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