SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The CDC and the Department of e
Elementary and Secondary Education (DOE) has released guidelines to change the layout of how students will sit on buses when they return to school during the coronavirus pandemic.
Western Mass News checked in with a local school bus company to see how they're preparing.
"We’re going to have to get creative working with the school departments," said David Strong, the president of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts.
Bus companies in western Mass. are gearing for the beginning of the school year.
This is as the DOE, and the CDC released safety guidelines for the transportation of students. The DOE suggests reducing the capacity on buses, by considering plans such as adding bus routes and staggering schedules.
Western Mass News spoke to David Strong, the president of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts, and he said the reduction in capacity could cause a need for more buses and adds that is something the state would not be able to provide.
"If we’re down to a third capacity and we need to come with more buses. Just in the State of Massachusetts alone, there are 9,000 buses," he said. "So we’re talking about 18,000 buses. We’re not going to be able to buy that many even if we want the manufacturers can’t supply that."
Another suggestion by the DOE is taking proactive steps to promote safe alternative transportation options for students, including family drop-offs.
"Although that's going to create another problem in terms of traffic jams at the school," Strong noted.
One of the CDC guidelines suggests seating students one per row and skipping rows when possible, but Strong told us that if more buses were needed to lower capacity, more drivers would also be needed, and that is another concern the state faces...
"We’re already experiencing a driver shortage. We have been for several years, in the entire country, commercial driver both trucks and buses..." Strong explained.
To ensure the safety of all, Strong said the ventilation on buses will play a pivotal role.
"We’ve been talking about keeping the windows open, as much as possible, which will help keep fresh air going through the bus," Strong said.
Another recommendation is to add monitors on the buses, to ensure kids remain socially distant.
"We need to put in monitors on these buses, and that's something that we are going to look at the school departments to try to find those people and hire them and get them on board," Strong explained.
As for cleaning the buses, Strong said companies will have to be flexible.
"Some possibilities include cleaning overnight, on weekends, or if there is a day students will be remote for the week," he said.
Strong hopes schools finalize their plans soon, so companies have time to test the routes.
"The sooner, the better that we can get things in place and start running some of these routes before just to make sure they’re going to work," he said.