Districts implement cleaning, safety protocols for school buses ahead of reopening

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LAWRENCE, Ind. – Strict policies are in place to keep school buses clean as some districts head back for in-person learning. School leaders say keeping the wheels on the bus going ‘round and round’ is critical to the reopening process.

“This is all new territory for us,” said Matt Miles, the Director of Transportation for MSD Lawrence Township, “Things have changed many times throughout. They’re still changing, we’re still evolving.”

Getting kids to school safely, during a pandemic is no simple task, but it is a critical one for Miles.

“First and foremost, we’ve been doing a lot of extra prep work to the buses over the summer,” Miles added.

Masks are required for all students and staff on the bus, and if weather permits, windows will be down for ventilation. Every seat, high touch point and the driver’s area will be cleaned every morning and afternoon.

“Some of them are more of a hospital-grade disinfectant type spray,” said Miles, “We actually have fogging machines that we can go onto the buses.”

On the weekends, a deeper clean will remove what is left behind. The district has outlined the reopening plans online.

“Certainly if there’s been a case, a positive case on a bus, we’re going to quarantine that bus as well as working with the students to make sure it’s disinfected and properly sanitized before it’s put back into service,” said Miles.

Miles anticipates roughly 35 percent of Lawrence Township students are learning from home, which will help keep numbers on the bus low. As for the drivers, Miles has been made aware of some hesitation, but most drivers are excited to get back to work.

“We have seen that from some of our drivers,” said Miles, “Maybe their health is a little compromised and we have certainly tried to work through those fears with drivers on a case-by-case basis.”

“The one concern I think a lot of systems are having, there was already a shortage of drivers,” added Ron Chew, the President of the Indiana State School Bus Drivers Association.

Chew has heard that nationally bus drivers are deciding to not come back to school due to the risk.

“A lot of the drivers in school corporations are retired and so the age factor comes into play and they’re concerned with the transmission of this virus,” said Chew.

In Indiana, school systems are following guidance from the department of education, CDC, and local health departments to find a way to prepare, clean and inspect all buses, the safest way.

“I think we’ve gotten to the point where we need to get back to some sense of normalcy and try to work our way through this as safely as we can,” said Chew.

Miles added, “Our mission is getting kids safely to and from school and that’s what we’re looking forward to. That’s what our drivers are looking forward to.”

Lawrence Township’s first day of school is August 13.

Many districts, including Lawrence, are asking families, if possible, to drive their children to school to eliminate crowded buses.

Click here to read the Indiana Department of Education’s reopening guidelines for school districts.

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