New protocol for Roanoke City public school students, drivers on buses due to COVID-19

Back to School

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Most students ride the school bus as their ways to get to school in Roanoke.

That experience may be very different for kids at least at the start of the 2020-2021 school year because of the coronavirus.

According to Durham School Services, the company that provides transportation for Roanoke City public schools, an average of 20 students will be allowed on each bus for the time being.

Typically, a bus can hold at least 77 students.

Each student will get their own seat on the bus and seating will be staggered.

On one side, the students will either sit next to the window or aisle.

On the other side of the bus, that order will be reversed.

When students board the bus, they will fill in the seats from the back to the front limit potential contact.

Durham School Services general manager Ron Young believes this plan is going to be the safest.

He says if parents do not feel comfortable with the the tentative arrangements, they have to do what they think is best for their child.

“Nobody is forcing anybody to go back to school. We want the students there,” Young said. “Know that we’re doing everything we can. But if the parent [does not feel] safe, it’s the parents’ responsibility to take care of the child. They have to do what they think is right.”

All of the students must wear face coverings any time they are on the bus.

If they do not have one of their own, the school district will have some available on the bus in addition to hand sanitizer.

The front row of seats will be left empty so there is space between the driver and the closest students.

Young says when the weather permits, all of the windows on the bus will be open during bus rides for cleaner air flow.

Last school year, nearly 10,000 students relied on taking the bus to get to school.

That is about 70% of the entire district.

Drivers and bus aides are also expected to follow strict guidelines.

Every Durham School Services bus driver and other employees must go through screening, including having their temperatures taken before they can begin their shifts.

On each school bus, the driver must wear face coverings while the students get on and off before they take the masks off to drive.

If there are bus aides on board, they also have to wear face coverings the entire ride.

They must also put on a face shield if they need to have any physical contact with a student, which can include helping them get on board or fasten a seat belt.

After every bus ride, drivers must sanitize all of the seats.

They will have to a perform a more thorough cleaning when the bus is returned to the depot, which will happen twice a day.

Young encourages both students and drivers to follow the new plans to keep everyone safe and comfortable.

“We need the parents’ help,: Young said about preparing their students for the new bus protocols. “Instruct them before. Maybe they’ve ridden the bus for several years and they’re used to sitting with their best friend. Explain to them it’s going to be a little different this year. They’ve seen it in a lot of other things. They understand probably more than we give them credit for. But they need to be told that before it happens.”

Young says the company is awaiting the school district to provide a concrete plan so it can get an accurate estimate of students to prepare to transport.

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