School bus safety on the minds of parents amid pandemic
Published Saturday, August 15, 2020 4:47PM EDT
LONDON, ONT. -- As kids get set to head back to school, many parents are still undecided as to whether to put their children on a school bus.
"We've signed our son up for busing but we are unsure whether we'll let him go or not," says Ed Chase of Dorchester.
Chase feels he needs more clarity on the rules and regulations before making a final decision.
"They need to provide enough information for us to know that our child on a bus can be safe."
In the London, Ont. area, school buses can hold 72 students, but Southwestern Ontario Transportation Services (STS) says they will have no more than two to a seat which is 46 students.
"There is no way students can social distance in that situation, so I’m not going to put my kids on school bus this year," says one mother who wished not to give her name.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce told CTV News London Saturday that his government is investing in safety.
"We put a $40 million, one-time investment to make sure buses are constantly cleaned so we reduce any risk to families and to their children," says Lecce.
The minster adds early surveys indicate that less students are opting for buses, but wants to ensure families they are doing everything possible to keep both drivers and children safe.
"Bus drivers are being armed with PPE, there is mandatory masking policy on the bus, reduced amount of children on bus and assigned seating which is important for contact management of an outbreak. We will have hand sanitizer available and when the weather allows we will keep windows open to help airflow."
Lecce adds that they will be staggering bus times and trying to keep kids as a unit to avoid contact with others.
Friday was the final day to register children for a seat on the bus. They needed parents to sign up for a couple reasons.
"In the event of contact tracing, we will be able to determine who was assigned to a vehicle, and manage loads on buses to make sure they are not over capacity," says Maureen Cosyn Heath, CEO of STS.
STS says bus stops are not supervised, and it will be up to parents and caregivers to enforce distancing at pick up locations.
Lecce says they are still finalizing numbers for how many students will be in class, and how many will be taking the buses. He says the province's Chief Medical Officer of Health has signed off on the current protocols.
"Dr. David Williams has fully endorsed the plan to re-open schools," says Lecce.
"Together as province we will overcome the challenge and kids will be in school."