Transportation Q&A

What are the CDC guidelines that are being followed?I have looked and nothing addresses student safety, just staff safety.I’d love to know where to find this info.
Thus far, the regulatory agencies that have provided guidance about school district operations are the CDC, the Office of the Governor of the State of Washington, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (LNI), and the Snohomish Health District (SHD). There are no CDC guidelines regarding bus transportation. The sole agency which has published guidance for school bus transportation is DOH. Their most recent guidance was published January 25, 2021. You can find the guidance document here: The guidance reads:

Bus Transportation
There are several guidelines to prevent COVID during school transportation.
• Keep riders as far apart as possible on the bus. Consider how to reduce ccupancy and increase space on the bus through scheduling and using additional buses.
• Require assigned seating.
• If possible, seat students with household members or members of their school group/cohort.
• Maximize outside air flow and keep windows open as much as possible.
• Encourage walking or biking where safe.
• Have caregivers drive students to school, if possible.
• Riders and staff members must wear a cloth face coverings or acceptable alternatives.
• Encourage students to wash or sanitize hands when they leave their home or classroom immediately before boarding the bus.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, including the tops and backs of seats. Use an EPA registered product and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.

Why can my child sit with a stranger on the bus, but can’t play with anyone he wants to on the playground? They have to stay in assigned groups/assigned areas.
Cohorting has two primary goals: to reduce the number of potential exposures to an ill person and to aid in contact tracing in the event an exposure occurs. The potential for being a close contact to an ill person on the bus is minimal, especially when compared to a school day (close contact is defined as being within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes). The highest density of riders on board a bus generally occurs for less than 15 minutes and as the bus is closest to the school, so the goal of reducing the time of exposure to a close contact is met by the short duration of the bus ride itself at maximum ridership. The seating assignments made by the bus driver are recorded on seating charts drivers maintain, so if a student is identified as being infectious with COVID, we can review the seating chart and determine if there were any close contacts with the infectious student, thus meeting the second goal of cohorting.

Why aren’t buses being loaded back to front and unloaded front to back?
Our practice is to seat Kindergarten and 1st grade students closer to the driver as these students require the highest degree of care and supervision by an adult while on board our bus. Loading and unloading front to back could place the most vulnerable students the greatest distance from the nearest adult. While loading back to front would minimize exposure (being within 6 feet of another person) the exposure in our practice is so brief as to be inconsequential in regards to the potential for virus transmission. Secondary buses may be seated front to back at the driver’s discretion. Conditions on board the bus may dictate a specific seating assignment that precludes front to back loading, as the driver has ultimate discretion in operating the bus to ensure the highest level of safety for all occupants.

Why aren’t kids being assigned seats with siblings or other kids they are in class with/same grade? Or grouped by street that they live on? We have five 3rd grade students on our street all riding the bus.

Our elementary buses only pick up and drop off students that attend the same school, meeting the recommendation that we seat students with members of their school group. We do allow siblings to share seats. Seating assignment protocols are regularly reviewed with drivers or as guidance changes.

Why aren’t more buses being added to reduce number of kids on the bus? Occupancy needs to be reduced somehow.

We do not have enough bus drivers available to increase the number of buses on the roads. Families have the option of driving their student to school in lieu of riding the bus. We anticipate bus loads to grow as we add grades in the future.

Why are bus routes so unbalanced?20+ kids on one route, 1-6 on others? It doesn’t seem like a good use of funds to pickup/drop off 1 kid on 1 bus.

Our bus routes are structured to meet the requirements of the A/B schedule we defined in September and are set up in preparation for the addition of grade levels as we are allowed to add them. What may appear to be an underutilized route now may have more students on board in the future as grade levels are added. Additionally, bus loads vary quite broadly depending on the day, as not every student assigned to in-person instruction attends each day they are eligible or they may be ineligible to attend for another reason. We don't reconfigure our routes based on fluctuations in ridership. If we have buses that only transport one student it's due to the student's specialized transportation needs.