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Durham School Services and Roanoke City Schools unveil plan for school buses this fall

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 7:13 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Like most things, riding the school bus will look different this year, and for most students, the school bus is the first and last part of the school day.

Come August 31, donning a mask and getting hand sanitizer will merge into the routine.

“The first student to get on the bus will go to the far back seat, start at the window, next seat will be aisle, to provide as much social distancing as possible,” said John Ziegler, vice president of operations for Durham School Service.

During a walk-through of a city school bus, orange cones marked where students would be allowed to sit, one student in each seat. Every other seat would alternate between having a student in the aisle versus by the window, so no student is directly in front or behind another.

The front row of each bus will remain empty so there's enough distance that the driver will not have to wear a mask while driving.

The day for drivers begins differently, too.

The first thing drivers will do is get their temperature checked and answer a short questionnaire about any symptoms, and contact with anyone experiencing symptoms.

According to Ziegler, drivers are encouraged to call out sick before their shifts if they have any symptoms. But at this point, the company doesn’t know how many drivers will be needed for all the routes.

“We finished in June with 151 drivers.”

Last year, delays were a major issue due to a driver shortage.

“We have 27 new candidates in our pipeline and we continue to recruit, I don’t know what that might look like in the morning, certainly we hope we have enough substitutes but should there be a greater number of people than what we have available, that may cause an issue,” said Ziegler.

Overall, Ziegler says the company has made great strides and there’s a process in place, but the biggest holdup with getting new drivers now is the DMV availability, and getting drivers licensed.

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