As local school districts begin classes, officials encourage safety around buses and prepare to enact bus COVID prevention measures again.
Full-time school will return for students, and school staff will keep in place a number of precaution for school buses.
“Basically we’re going to be operating the same way as last year,” said Brian Lewis, executive director of operations at the Arlington School District.
Masks will be the biggest prevention measure for the districts.
In the Marysville School District “bus drivers and students are required to wear masks and students will have assigned seats,” said Kim McAbee, director of transportation services at the district.
Arlington schools are prepared to work with students who are not using a mask, said Lewis.
“We’ll still give them a ride to school that day but we will work with the parents and students so they understand the need for masks,” he said. “Anything further than that will be addressed on a case-by-case basis."
There are certain populations of students who will not be able to wear a mask, although the district is already aware of those students, said Lewis. “Those are students that have a cognitive or physical disability that bars them from being able to use a mask."
Parents who think their student falls under that category must have medical documentation to back up that claim, said Lewis.
“Besides masking, the primary safety measure for schools will be students and staff not coming to school if they are ill,” he said.
He recommends talking to your primary care provider or getting a COVID test if you have symptoms such as a sore throat or runny nose.
“With the delta variant we are finding that sometimes it presents as the same symptoms you may get from allergies,” said Lewis.
Consider that those symptoms may actually be COVID-19, he said.
Other prevention measures being used by the district include cleanings.
"Buses will be disinfected by the drivers daily,” said McAbee.
State health guidance says to keep windows open.
“Buses will be running at full capacity with windows down for extra ventilation,” said McAbee.
Lewis said state guidance says to close windows only in extreme cold weather, so they are expected to be open often.
As buses return to the roads, local school officials also encourage drivers to obey the law.
“Really, the biggest safety issue is those who are running the stop paddles,” said Lewis.
“In 2019 we had state patrol shadow our buses for one day,” and during that day they caught eight people violating the law.
“It puts our students in great danger … they may be crossing the lane in front of the bus,” he said.
By state law, both directions of traffic must stop on a two-lane road, while only cars traveling the same direction as the bus must stop on a road with three or more lanes.
This year Arlington schools sent out a letter encouraging families to know the difference between bus number and route number.
“Look for the route number next to a placard on the loading door,” said Lewis.
Your bus number may change, for example, if a bus needs to be taken out of the rotation for maintenance, but your route number may not.
“That is the biggest cause of confusion for some students,” said Lewis.
The first couple of weeks may be a little unusual as well, as sometimes students show up that the bus driver was not expecting.
“Folks should be patient while our routes get nailed down,” said Lewis.