The school bus experience is set to change dramatically in the D.C. area as some school districts plan in-person learning for the fall as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
School districts are planning strict social distancing, temperature checks, “walking school buses” and multiple trips on the same route.
In Arlington County, where typically 70 students can fit on a bus, only 11 will be able to ride. That means lots of changes need to be made, Arlington Public Schools transportation planner Kristin Haldeman said.
“What we’ve been trying to do – and it pains me to say this, is reduce demand on our buses,” she said.
The district is getting creative and setting up so-called “walking school buses.” Children who live closer to schools will meet and form their own pedestrian “bus.”
“To do that we’ve expanded the walk zones in some of the areas that are closer to our schools, but they tend to have more difficult crossings,” Haldeman said.
More crossing guards will be called on.
Additionally, Arlington will require any student who rides the bus to get a temperature check before boarding. Parents will have to wait with their child until the temperature reading comes back normal.
Taking students’ temperatures before they ride the bus in Fairfax County also was something the district was looking at, Superintendent Scott Brabrand said during a recent virtual townhall.
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“This is something, honestly, that we are continuing to look at around how we do transportation. It is not a current recommendation at this point,” he said.
On Tuesday, Brabrand recommended starting the school year 100% online.
Montgomery County Public Schools said they’re revising their plan for school buses.
All districts we spoke with said bus drivers may have to make multiple trips along the same route to get everyone to and from schools. They also said buses would be cleaned after every trip.
School Reopening Plans
School reopening plans in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia
Credit: Anisa Holmes / NBC Washington