School bus congestion fears
Students are encouraged to use private transport to avoid congestion in the new school term.
Neville Tyrrell, the Minister of Transport, said extra minibuses and regular buses would be introduced as he announced the new 2020 school bus schedule yesterday.
Mr Tyrrell said that staff would be on hand to ensure students follow physical-distancing guidelines on buses set out by the Ministry of Health.
He told a press conference: “Parents and students are encouraged to consider alternative private transportation options where possible.
“Students travelling on the bus service and ferry service must adhere to the public transportation guidance for physical distancing. In addition, DPT has put Covid-19 measures in place to manage crowding at the central terminal.
“This may result in delays at peak commute times.”
The minister said students should avoid travelling through the central terminal by making full use of the school bus service.
He added: “It should be noted that Covid-19 guidance for the public bus and ferry service remains unchanged with three-feet physical distancing.
“Following these guidelines will help to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all passengers and staff which remains the top priority of the DPT.
“We are going to monitor this in the early stages to see exactly how it is going and whether it needs to be something permanent.”
Mr Tyrrell said that the 25-seat minibuses being used for schoolchildren would carry about half the capacity of a Department of Public Transportation bus, while the public bus service would be reduced to a third of its normal capacity due to physical-distancing requirements.
He said the DPT would monitor the ridership and provide additional capacity where possible.
Education minister Diallo Rabain said that government representatives had met with parents to help ease worries over the return to school on Monday.
He said: “Over the past few months, teams from the Ministry of Health and Department of Education have been working diligently to put new protocols and guidelines in place.
“Traditionally over the summer months, the Department of Education and Ministry of Public Works are busy with summer works within the school buildings for the start of the fall semester.
“This year the facilities team and public works have had the additional task of getting the buildings ready following health guidelines.”
Mr Rabain said work included installing hand-washing stations, partitions and doors, and installing Plexiglas shields for administration assistants, as well as painting and putting up signs throughout buildings.
“The team's priority at this stage is to ensure classrooms are fully operational for the return of students,” Mr Rabain said.
School staff have been given the option of free Covid-19 testing.
Middle school and senior school students must report to school wearing a cloth or disposable mask with intermittent breaks. Preschoolers and primary pupils will have to wear them only on their way to and from school and certain activities.
School premises will open at 8.30am from preschool to middle-school level while students and parents must participate in entry screening including having their temperatures taken, and answering Covid-19 related questions.
Classrooms have been configured according to three-feet distancing and students will be allocated to bubbles.
Parents and non-essential visitors will not be able to enter the school premises.
Commissioner of Education Kalmar Richards said: “As parents prepare to send their children to our schools, we want to reassure parents that we have planned carefully, intentionally and responsibly for the reopening of schools.
“Success in reopening our schools responsibly and safely depends on the support of the whole community.”
• The new school bus schedule is available www.gov.bm/bus