ROANOKE, Va. – Social distancing requirements for the 2020-2021 school year may mean that not every student can go to school every day this fall. Getting students to and from class will be a major road bump, especially for families that rely on public transportation.
Roanoke County mom Katherine Shaver is anxiously waiting to hear what the new school year will hold for her two children. One will be going into 7th grade; the other will be a junior.
“My kids have always ridden the bus,” said Shaver. “I’m a little concerned about how busing will work, how social distancing on buses will work.”
Helena Hubble, whose three kids go to Covington City Schools, said she is worried how they’ll stay safe on the bus.
"[The school district] would have to get a whole lot more bus drivers and buses too. They’re always short-staffed on the buses and we never have enough buses to run.”
A bus that could hold more than 70 kids could be cut to just 13 in some cases. Face coverings may be required.
School districts like Salem, Montgomery County and Roanoke County are looking at staggered start times, alternating schedules and sending kids to school for in-person instruction just once or twice a week.
“That could look different for young students versus high school students,” said Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely. "We’re being mindful of trying to keep siblings on the same schedule as much as possible.“
In Roanoke City, delayed school buses and a lack of drivers caused major headaches last year under normal circumstances. School board members expressed concerns that adding routes or drivers would be tricky.
During Tuesday night’s Roanoke City School Board meeting, members agreed they’ll have to get creative by recruiting volunteers or faith leaders to carpool or walk kids to school, or even partnering with Valley Metro.
“What is most important is that we get our children safely to our schools, educate them to the best of our ability,” said board member Dr. Eli Jamison, "So we are going to put every idea on the table.”
Shaver said some time in school is better than none at all.
“We have to make the best of it. We’re kind of all in this together,” said Shaver. "We’ll be flexible and go with the flow.”