The wheels on the bus will go round and round, but hopefully carrying fewer children if the School District of Amery’s hopes come to fruition.
How many children should be riding a bus amid COVID-19 is a matter being dealt with across the nation. During the School District of Amery’s July board meetings, District Administrator Shawn Doerfler shared the plan for Amery routes.
“From the get-go on this, the biggest area of concern that was brought up was the impossibility of social distancing on a bus. You have a bus with the capacity of 78, if you socially distance a bus (keeping kids six feet apart) you will get 11 kids on a bus,” said Doerfler.
He said on an average day the district buses 750 in the morning and evening. “If you wanted to socially distance on a bus with 11 per bus, your routes would run in the morning from 6a.m.-10a.m. and your routes in the evening would run from 3p.m.-7p.m. That is impossible,” Doerfler said.
Parents are encouraged to provide transportation for students to school. Parents will need to declare whether their child is riding school transportation by Friday, August 7. Doerfler said, “We are going to be adamant that we hear from everyone. We do not want to show up on the first day and find three kids are standing at the bus stop expecting a ride and tell them ‘Sorry you didn’t sign up.’ We need to hear from everyone.”
“Any kid that wants to get a ride on the bus is going to get a ride,” said Doerfler.
Bus routes will be arranged so that students are on the bus for as little time as possible. Masks are required for bus drivers and all students riding the bus.
Doerfler said districts that have asked families to start providing transportation have seen about a 50% decrease in bus riders.
Board member Char Glenna asked, “What will be done about occasional riders?”
“We are going to have to ask again and again and again and continuously update those bus slips,” said Doerfler. He said he realizes it is unrealistic for all families to declare their bus intentions for the entire school year.
Glenna asked how special circumstances such as weather causing early releases or cancelled sports practices will work with bussing. “Would we turn a kid away?” she asked.
Doerfler responded, “Not only do I think we are not allowed to turn a kid away, I wouldn’t want to turn a kid away. We are going to have to be on top of that number as much as possible and keep it as low as possible. I am hopeful parents will understand the situation is that it is probably best for me to transport them.”
Board member Erin Hosking said the school campus is already quite congested during drop-off and pick-up times and wondered how added traffic will be handled. Doerfler said he was aware traffic issues exist and they are being worked on along with plans to hammer out pick-up and drop-off times.