Local school district discusses health and safety for students on school buses

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WRIGHT TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — As schools across the country decide if students should head back into the classroom, another issue has come up over how to get them there.

Officials are trying to figure out how to bus students to school. Both school districts and bus companies across northeastern Pennsylvania are trying to navigate COVID-19 safety precautions while also getting thousands of students to school. Many districts and other school entities are currently working on their safe reopening plans, which must address transportation.

“It’s going to start with our families and they are going to need to monitor their children’s health each and every morning,” said Bob Mehalick, superintendent of the Crestwood School District.

In the Crestwood School District, 93 percent of students are bused. The plan for keeping buses clean and safe for students is fluid.

“The solution hasn’t been set in stone yet as far as how many students are going to be allowed on a bus,” said Luke Casella with the Rohrer Bus Company.

But, there are a number of possible changes onboard buses that have been discussed locally.

Most buses are designed to hold 72 to 81 children. That’s three per seat every seat, which doesn’t allow for social distancing.

“We understand now that we are going to have to keep our kids safe as possible. Two kids per seat. They will be required to wear masks to and from school,” said Mehalick.

According to the preliminary school reopening guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, they advise creating social distance between children on buses by seating one child per seat or every other row.

“We recognized pretty quickly that that wasn’t going to be doable,” said Mehalick. He says the crowded routes in Crestwood School District will be redone. Other guidelines from the DOE are about cleaning frequently touched surfaces on the buses at least daily.

Between each run, the bus drivers are going to clean down the high touch services and clean down the bus at the end of the day. The buses are going to get sanitized with electrostatic sprayers.

The number of drivers available is also a concern.

“There’s always a driver shortage, so maybe, this year it might change. There might be more of a driver shortage if they need more vehicles,” said Luke Casella.

More guidance from the CDC is expected to be released and until then, Crestwood School District wont release their finalized reopening plan.

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