MASON, Ohio — With many local school districts getting plans ready to reopen to students next month, school bus safety is taking on a whole new meaning. Districts and parents are focused on safe driving and safe pickups, but the coronavirus pandemic is adding still more concerns.
When Mason City Schools bus driver Amy Wilson picks up students this August, things are going to look a little different. Students and drivers will wear masks or face shields. Each bus will have assigned seating to help with contact tracers in the case of a positive COVID-19 test for a student.
“Mason students are very well-behaved and are very accepting to having to follow safety measures,” Wilson said.
The district is limiting bus capacity to two children per seat, disinfecting seats and high-touch surfaces between runs and using disinfecting mist to thoroughly clean all buses at the end of the day.
“The one thing that we had to do is we had to sit there and provide a little bit more time because our drivers are going to be required in between each route to pause and go in and sanitize the locations,” TSA Supervisor for Mason City Schools Mark Murzynowski said.
Mason City Schools officials said because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s seeing a drop in the number of students and families deciding to make use of the school’s busing system for the upcoming year.
“We will not have six feet social distancing on a bus,” Mason City Schools Public Information Officer Tracey Carson said. “It actually probably won’t even be three feet. So, with that, some families have said, ‘For this year, we’re just going to take our child to school.’”
Another part of that number drop is from the 30% of Mason families who are choosing to start the year with online instruction from home. Parents were given that option and the district’s plan is designed to adjust to blended or remote learning if the pandemic worsens.
“Part of the hard piece of all of this was that families have had to wrestle with a really challenging decision where there are no right answers,” Carson said.
Larger bus companies like First Student, United Transportation Services and National Express that serve different districts in our area say they’re finalizing safety plans now and working with the school districts they serve to meet any criteria laid out by individual school boards.