Teachers voice concerns about school bus plans
Worried teachers said yesterday they feared problems with the school bus service when the new term started because of Covid-19 safety rules.
It is expected that students will be required to stick to social-distancing rules on reduced capacity buses when the new school term starts in September.
But one public-school teacher said that even before the Covid-19 pandemic there were bus shortages and coronavirus regulations would make the problem worse — and highlighted the risk of pupils ignoring health protection rules.
The teacher, who asked not to be named, said: “Last school year there weren't enough buses to facilitate student transportation needs — what will they do now that they need twice as many buses?
“They are going to need more if there's only 17 people on the bus — we just don't know, we are trying to find out now. They are not talking much.”
The teacher added that the education ministry had not told schools how they planned to enforce social-distancing and mask use on buses.
The teacher said: “The concern I have is that children do not understand social-distancing.
“Are they going to have monitors on the bus to ensure social-distancing and the wearing of masks? The bus drivers are not going to be able to drive and monitor social-distancing and mask-wearing at the same time.
“Will they stagger the start and finish of the school day?
“If the Ministry of Education doesn't have a proper staffing system prepared to facilitate staggering start and finish time and staggered breaks and lunches, the back to school will be a disaster.”
Another teacher said: “I don't know how it is going to work. I can foresee it being a problem, but I hope all necessary protocols are put in place and they are adhered to.
“We have not been told anything by the ministry — they usually leave everything to the last minute.”
The government website lists Covid-19 public transport health rules on its website.
The notice said: “Passengers are asked to maintain physical-distancing at all times when waiting in line and they must wear a mask.
“Please note that passenger capacity on buses has been reduced to allow for physical-distancing.
“The number of passengers directed to the departure bay will strictly match the capacity of the bus operating that route.”
The Government announced before the autumn term started last year that eight minibuses would be used to boost the school bus service.
A transport ministry spokesman said at the time that the temporary measure was introduced because of “a combination of mechanical breakdowns and accidents” had led to more buses than usual being off the roads.
He added that technicians were “working to repair several buses in short order”.
Zane DeSilva, the former transport minister, said in March that a plan to introduce the “next generation” of buses was in its final stages.
Mr DeSilva added that the size of the new buses would be tailored to the routes they were expected to serve.
Last night, a government spokesman said: “A meeting with all bus operators is expected to take place this week, to discuss how students will be safely transported by bus when schools reopen.
“The Department of Public Transportation is committed to the safety of its staff and passengers.
“At the appropriate time following the meeting, the public will be advised of the required Covid-19 mitigation protocols for the transportation of school students on public buses.”