The Next Normal: Riding school buses and transportation safety

Updated: Aug. 5, 2020 at 12:33 PM CDT
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(KLTV) - The COVID-19 pandemic will likely have a big impact on the way students whose families opt for on-campus learning get to school every day.

Federal law requires school districts to offer transportation often by way of school buses. However, following social distancing guidelines mean it will take more buses to transport the same number of students to school each day.

Then, there’s the question of a student’s health before they even step on the bus.

“We talked about that, but there are some stops where 20 kids get on the school bus on [a four-lane road],” said Jack Irvin, director of safety, security, and transportation at Pine Tree ISD. “Obviously, to take temperatures is another distraction that distracts the driver from the traffic. It’s something that just doesn’t make good sense.”

Some districts will also take precautions by asking students symptom-screening questions before they’re allowed to board the bus. However, the Texas Education Agency made few recommendations on the topic of student transportation.

COVID-19 may only complicate an even bigger issue in past years concerning student safety: the illegal passing of school buses. Each violation is reported to various law enforcement officials, Irvin explained, but it doesn’t stop drivers from racking up hundreds during the school year.

“Here up through March, we had hundreds of reported violations,” he said. “Kids are in most danger during unloading and loading of the school bus. That’s when us -- as adults and motorists -- have to exercise complete caution and stop for those stopped school buses that have [red lights].”

It is a violation of Texas traffic law to pass any school bus as it is loading or unloading passengers.

Irvin said parents in any district can help by staying aware of their child’s health daily. Parents can help by also making sure kids are outfitted with personal protective equipment, not only as a requirement for bus riders in districts like Pine Tree ISD but as one less task for school bus drivers to worry about.

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