Schools that opted for in-person instruction are starting to open their doors as year-round academic calendars start at the cusp of July and August. Anxious teachers, staff, administration, and students are the focus of news coverage, but little is talked about how transportation departments are coping with this harsh transition. Some of the nation’s largest school districts made the decision of starting remote instruction for the new school year, but how does that affect non-instructional staff such as school bus drivers and dispatchers?
Three major student transportation associations have created the Student Transportation Aligned for Return to School (STARTS) Task Force. The National Association for Pupil Transportation, the National School Transportation Association, and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services created this group in order to develop resources to be used “in the design and development of school opening plans […] in a time of COVID-19.”
From suggestions of creating a cohort system that attend split schedules to providing modified response plans to support the safe return of students with disabilities and special needs, the 70-page report offers a solid starting point for school districts nationwide. It operates with the goal of providing practical information to help prepare and protect student transportation provides and making sure all the relevant decisions are taken into consideration.
There is also a guide for independent bus contractors and transportation directors a comprehensive plan with action items, such as guideline and tasks that are contingent on the decisions that school districts reach about open their doors. The report also comes with a Transportation Reopening Gantt Chart to make project management easy for the transportation directors, location managers, and state directors of transportation to further lighten the gravity of the situation by putting the focus on making the plan and delegating tasks.
At the beginning of their report, STARTS said we are “fixing a plane in flight and you are not sure exactly where it is going.” There is no model in creating the new normal that all of us want to have so we can finally move past all of this. Navigating 2020 has been difficult to say the very least, and we’re just trying our best and hoping for the best. The yellow school bus has been the safest way to take students to and from school, and it should continue to be that even during this pandemic. This report and its resources are a solid starting point, regardless of what the schools opt to do for its students.