03 Aug Jon Cartu Affirm: School bus transportation in the COVID-19 era
LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As Fayette County Public Schools students prepare to return to school on Aug. 26th using a non-traditional model, questions about how transportation will work once in-person classes resume still need to be answered.
FCPS Routing Supervisor Brad Daniel told LEX 18 most decisions are made at the state level, leaving districts to enforce the guidelines provided by the Kentucky Department of Education.
“We know we have to have some flexibility because we know at any given time things could still shift a little bit,” Daniel said.
FCPS released an outline of current transportation plans during a school board meeting on July 27.
Social distancing, mandatory face masks, and temperature checks are among the changes riders will notice. Students with medical exemptions for wearing masks will be seated in a designated area.
Parents are expected to check their children’s temperatures before they arrive at the bus stop, where a bus monitor will do another temperature before a student is allowed on the bus, according to Daniel. Students who have a fever will be seated in a designated area at the front of the bus and will be taken to the infirmary upon arrival to school.
“I will say as a parent what will give me confidence to put my children on the bus is knowing that every bus has a bus monitor on it. So that the driver can focus on their job and I know there’s a responsible person who can take temperatures and monitor social distancing,” said Priya Warrier, a mom of three.
Bus driver James Vest expressed concerns about allowing students with high temperatures on a bus full of healthy students.
“In a pandemic situation, I don’t see where that makes sense,” Vest said. “I don’t think it’s fair to the other students on the bus. I don’t think it’s fair to the staff on the bus.”
But he said he doesn’t agree with leaving students behind at a bus stop either.
“I’m not really sure what the perfect answer is. I don’t think there’s a perfect solution,” he said.
There are some safeguards to optimize safety, according to Daniel.
“At the time that we’re doing face-to-face the community spread is going to be lower. We think that the numbers are going to be lower so it’s not like we’re trying to do this tomorrow when we know we’re in an escalated phase,” Daniel said.
A starting date for in-person classes has not been voted on yet by the Fayette County Board of Education.
Ideally, in-person classes would resume when the rate of COVID-19 transmission is at a significant low point. That combined with reduced numbers as some parents opt for the district’s virtual learning academy, elevated cleaning standards, staggered schedules, and the enforcement of social distancing and use of face masks will allow for transportation to be done safely, Daniel explained.
Vest raised another concern about how the guidelines will work in practice.
“If a kid gets on the bus and says, ‘I’m not wearing [a mask],’ what are we going to do with that?” he said.
Schools spokesperson Lisa Deffendall said there will be consequences to not following guidelines.
“When we have a student discipline issue that’s not something transportation takes care of. That’s something the school does,” Deffendall explained. “But that is a possibility that you would lose the privilege to ride the bus.”
Ultimately, it will take a community effort from parents, students, and educators alike to ensure everyone can go safely back to school.