School district faces challenges busing students during COVID-19 pandemic

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — As school districts move forward with plans to welcome students back for in-person learning, transportation departments face challenges trying to safely bus children to school during COVID-19 pandemic.

Greg Jackson is the Executive Director of Jefferson County Public Schools’ transportation and fleet services. He said it’s been difficult trying to navigate COVID-19 restrictions, student safety, CDC guidelines and the needs of schools.

“It’s a challenge, that’s the most simple way to say it, it’s a challenge,” said Jackson.

Under COVID-19 guidelines, only one student is allowed to sit in a seat, dramatically reducing capacity on buses. Buses could previously transport 77 students at a time. Now, the buses can only hold 20-22 students at a time.

In response, the district is only offering busing to eligible riders this year. Most students living close to their school will not be offered an opportunity to ride the bus. Additionally, Jackson said his team is considering cutting busing for high school students to free up more buses for elementary students.

“It’s something that’s been discussed. It’s not something that’s been decided,” said Jackson.

Jackson said his team is trying to avoid having buses make multiple trips along the same route, but it is a possibility. The transportation department is considering consolidating bus stops to speed up trips for bus drivers. It’s also looking into changing school start times to give drivers extra time.

“Our buses are going to be continuously running. It’s going to be nonstop,” said Jackson. “It’s how can we put the puzzle together and still provide a good service?”

While on the bus, every other window will be rolled down. Jackson said the constant flow of fresh air was inspired by constant air circulation on airplanes. Jackson said fresh air will help minimize the spread of COVID-19 while students ride the bus.

Once buses arrive at school, drivers will conduct temperature checks on the bus. Jackson said this will help schools screen students for symptoms and speed up the check-in process.

After students exit the bus, each bus drivers will sanitize seats and high touch areas before picking up more students.

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