Salem City School officials say busing students to and from school is going to be an issue

SALEM, Va. – Busing students to and from school is going to be an issue this year because of physical distancing requirements, according to Salem City Schools officials.

The city plans to do two bus runs in the afternoon because it’s more difficult on parents to provide transportation during that time of the day. But in the mornings, they’re asking parents to take kids to school. Typically about 30% of Salem students take a bus.

“We’ll take all of our K-2 to students home. Then we’ll come back to the school and pick up are 3-5 students. 50% of those students are two days a week and we’ll take those students home so that should alleviate some of that stress for numbers in the afternoons,” said Curtis Hicks, Salem City Schools Asst. Superintendent.

Only about 22 students are going to be able to ride each bus and it’s going to cost Salem more this year.

“We’re just going to have to put the money where we need it and right now we are going to need it with our drivers, our buses, and our transportation,” said Hicks.

Buses will be cleaned after the routes in the mornings and afternoons.

“We have allocated some additional custodial staff to the bus garage so at the end of each route the buses come back to the transportation department and then the custodial staff will descend on the buses. We do have specialized equipment we can use and they’ll be responsible for cleaning all the seats and anywhere students may have touched,” said Hicks.

He says parents will be asked to screen children before they leave home. Each family will receive a magnet highlighting the process.

“We believe we all share the burden of making sure schools are safe for kids and for our teachers and really safer community. We want to make sure that we don’t do anything to propagate the spread of the virus in the community. Really it’s an all hands on deck, every person shares the responsibility to make sure that we’re all doing our individual part to make sure schools are safe for kids and teachers,” said Hicks.

Students will load from back to front and unload from front to back to limit students passing each other.

Spots will be marked on the buses for where they can sit and everyone has to wear a face covering.

They are still looking for bus drivers. Hicks said Salem bus drivers are guaranteed 5 hours of work each school day and get benefits. He said some overtime might happen because of the increased number of routes.

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