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What will change on your child’s school bus because of COVID-19

If you are able to take them to and from school, school districts encourage that because it will help reduce the number of riders and the risk of spreading COVID.

INDIANAPOLIS — Riding the school bus is going to look a little different this school year. School districts are now putting together their COVID-19 transportation plans. Many of them feature similar strategies – including face coverings, assigned seats, and frequent sanitizing — to help keep students distanced and to help protect children and bus drivers from the potential spread of coronavirus.

“We’ve got a lot of changes,” said Jennifer Sheets, the transportation director at M.S.D. Decatur Township. “For the kids, this is so different for them. This is such a new lifestyle … we need to be patient with them and help them through this. They need to come back to school, and they need to be with their friends. And we need to find a way to live through this.”

Sheets said she has been working on the school district’s COVID-19 transportation plan for six weeks. A school bus driver for 15 years, she saidDecatur Township bus drivers will be reminding students the importance of wearing masks on the bus, but it will be parents – not drivers – who will be asked to enforce the new face mask requirements, now mandated by schools and the governor.

“We are here to nurture these kids, not police them,” she said.

It's important to point out, school districts prefer your kids NOT ride the bus. If you are able to take them to and from school, school districts encourage that because it will help reduce the number of riders and the risk of spreading COVID.

Here is a sampling of school district’s COVID-19 transportation plans. (If your school district’s plan is not listed and you want more details, check the district’s website or call its transportation office.)

Indianapolis Public Schools

IPS has released a back-to-school plan that includes details about transportation changes due to COVID-19.

When students return to class (the first day of school is now set for Aug. 17), IPS said it expects them to arrive at the bus stop wearing masks, and masks will be required by all students while they are on the bus. The school district plans to implement social distancing on buses to the maximum extent possible.

Students will be assigned seating for morning and afternoon bus routes, and seating will be adjusted to allow rear-to-front loading for morning trips and front-to-rear unloading for afternoon runs. School buses will be disinfected at the end of the morning and afternoon routes.

IPS encourages families to consider driving or walking as much as possible to and from school to help reduce crowding on buses. The school district is adding crossing guards, and implementing walk zones at some schools to support and encourage walking.

RELATED: IPS Board votes to delay start of school by 2 weeks

Decatur Township Schools

Decatur Township Schools has released its re-entry plan, which outlines how the school district will handle busing and transportation for its students.

The plan states “transportation by personal vehicle is encouraged.” Students riding a school bus will be given an assigned seat and spaced apart as much as possible. Students and bus drivers are expected to wear face coverings on the bus, as well as during loading and unloading at each bus stop and school building. Bus monitors will wear face shields, and will sanitize hands before and after each physical interaction with students.

Some windows and roof hatches will remain open on the bus to facilitate good airflow. The school district will increase sanitization on high traffic areas of each bus, and each bus will be cleaned at least four times each day. Schools will dismiss students to and from buses, one bus at a time, to encourage social distancing while entering and exiting the school bus.

Greenwood Community Schools

The school district is encouraging parents to provide transportation for their own children to and from school, if that reduces concerns about COVID-19. The GCS social distancing roadmap states all students riding a bus will be assigned a seat to assist in social distancing and tracking in the event there is a positive diagnosis of COVID-19.

Bus drivers, aides and students will be required to wear masks on school buses, including transport to athletic events. Buses will be sanitized between routes, which may result in earlier pick up times and later drop off times than normal.

RELATED: Parents, assistant principal share tips for virtual learning success

Carmel Clay Schools

Students riding a school bus in Carmel will also be required to wear a face covering. Bus drivers will be wearing them, too. All bus riders will have an assigned seat for contact tracing purposes, and only two students will be assigned per seat. Additional spacing of students will occur as much as possible, according to the school district’s COVID re-opening plan. Students will not be permitted to ride with another student on a different bus.

Buses will disinfected after morning and afternoon routes.

RELATED: Statewide mask mandate impacts teachers, students planning for start of school year

Avon Community School Corporation

Due to COVID-19, Avon Schools will limit families to one pickup location in the morning and one drop-off location in the afternoon daily.

The district admits it cannot provide the recommended 6-foot social distancing, recommended by state and federal health guidelines, while students are riding its buses. 

“It is impossible to social distance on the bus without adding hundreds of bus routes and incurring impossible expense. As a result … ACSC will require that students, drivers and aides wear masks while on the bus,” said a school re-opening document.

Avon Schools will be using assigned seating based on seating charts. “Should there be a positive case, we need to be able to identify who was seated near the affected student,” the district explained.

Buses will be cleaned between routes and at the end of the day.

Franklin Township Community School Corporation

FTCSC has increased its school bus safety procedures for the upcoming school year. Dr. Kent Pettet, the district’s chief people officer, outlined the following changes:

“School buses will be sanitized and disinfected daily. Bus drivers will wear face covering during loading and uploading of students. Bus monitors will wear a face covering when social distancing is not feasible. Students will continue to have assigned seats and will be spaced apart as much as possible. Students will be expected to wear a face covering or mask while on the bus. We will keep windows open for cross ventilation as weather permits. Students in the same households will sit together. We also encourage students to socially distance themselves at bus stops,” Pettet said.