Students will be required to wear masks and sit in their own seat aboard school buses this fall, according to fall reopening guidelines released Wednesday.
The new guidelines, released as a supplement to the state’s fall reopening plan, Also require bus windows to be open at all times, unless due to extreme weather, and school districts are encouraged to add a bus monitor such as a volunteer, student leader, or staff member to ensure adherence to the transportation guidelines.
Repeated attempts to reach Martha’s Vineyard superintendent Matt D’Andrea over two days to see how these guidelines would be implemented on Island were unsuccessful.
Seating on buses requires each student to have their own bench and sit on alternating sides for each row, allowing for 3 feet of physical distance. Children from the same household are allowed to sit together.
Due to the seating restrictions, ridership on all buses will significantly decrease by more than half of their maximum capacity. For example, a 47-passenger bus will only be allowed to transport a maximum of 15 passengers at a time.
The guidelines offer remedies to the new guidelines by calling for school districts to encourage families to seek alternative modes of transportation, modify bus schedules, and stagger school start and end times.
Students will most likely be assigned to a single bus and their own seat on that bus. Orderly boarding and drop-off protocols must also be followed.
“Students boarding the bus at the beginning of the route should be assigned seats at the rear of the bus, and students boarding the bus at the end of the route should be assigned seats at the front,” the guidelines state.
The guidelines also require that The interior of the buses be cleaned and disinfected at least once a day. Hand sanitizer stations are to be installed at the front of glasses. Roof hatches and windows should be left open.
Bus drivers or bus monitors should be trained to observe students entering buses. If students appear to be symptomatic they should not enter the school bus.
This comes as schools are putting together their comprehensive fall reopening plans to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in August. The guidelines also require schools to develop plans for how students with disabilities, English language learners, and others will receive necessary services.
The state is requiring school districts to develop three back-to-school models: in-person learning with new safety requirements, hybrid learning, and remote learning.
The state’s primary goal is for in-person learning, which has all students and staff return to school, with classrooms and schedules modified to meet health requirements. Schools should prioritize developing an in-person model, according to the guidance.
Under hybrid learning, school districts would develop an alternating schedule for students, such as having students switch between in-person and remote learning on alternating weeks or days of the week.
The remote learning model is for students who are not able to return in person, and for all students in the event there is a spike in cases and schools are closed.