(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost every aspect of a traditional school experience, including how students get to and from school.
“It hasn’t been as difficult to put the processes in place, we’ll see when school starts,” said Mark Alexander, Apple Bus General Manager.
Apple Bus is hoping their COVID-19 plans work as well in practice as they do on paper, as they've got some large changes in place for the upcoming school year.
“The biggest change that’s happened with us is obviously the disinfecting of the buses and having the proper ppe for our drivers and monitors. We also expect students to wear masks when they’re on board, too,” said Alexander.
Another significant change, adjusted pick up times. Students will be picked up 15 minutes earlier from their bus stop than last year.
Alexander said the time change, "allowed us the extra time to be able to disinfect the buses between routes. When we pick them up, they unboard at the school and our drivers then will disinfect the buses very quickly and then, of course, go pick up the next route until we finish the morning routes and they get disinfected again.”
The St. Joseph School District has said they plan to practice social distancing within their buildings, but many families wonder how social distancing will be a possibility while on a school bus.
Apple Bus said they are going to implement social distancing on their buses by "allowing two kids per seat, then what we do is load them in the back first moving forward. If they do live in the same household, we will allow three children per seat. Then, of course when we unload, they will unload by rows starting towards the front and moving towards the back.”
That new bus system will limit the amount of kids Apple Bus can pick up, but they said the district's Virtual Academy is helping cut back on the amount of riders.
“It looks like with the numbers coming in, we’re gonna be in pretty good shape,” said Alexander.
The St. Joseph School District is requiring the buses use a seating chart. Apple Bus said they plan on also trying to pair the same bus driver with the same daily route to limit unnecessary contact.
With school just around the corner, Apple Bus hopes these modifications will keep them in business.
“Maybe some nervousness. This is something that nobody has come up against before so, absolutely there’s gonna be some nerves. We expect the worst and hope for the best,” said Alexander.
If COVID-19 forces school to go fully online, like last spring, Apple Bus said they'll reevaluate what they'll do then.
Apple Bus said by next Wednesday, parents and students can find their new bus time pick up schedule on the SJSD's website.