Ahead of new school year, changes made to school bus protocols on Long Island

An annual refresher course is underway at Suffolk Transportation Service in Bay Shore. It looks a little different because of COVID-19 but so will just about everything else this year including busing to and from school.

Frank Klein, Director of Safety and Training Operations says Suffolk Transportation Service has spent well over $100,000 on enhanced safety measures. The company operates in 19 local school districts and has about 1,500 drivers.

“It’s a partnership right now, really,” he said. “It’s between the districts, parents, and us to try to figure what works best for them and how we can accomplish that. We’re going to have about 21 students on a large school bus, we’re going to keep the seat behind the driver clear.  We’re going to have markings on the backs of chairs so kids know where they can sit. It’ll put them in a zig-zag pattern on the bus.”

Students must wear masks at all times and load the bus from the back to front to limit any unnecessary contact.

Other protocols in place - lowered windows about an inch to allow for more ventilation. The same goes for the roof hatches that will stay open during transport.

Corey Muirhead, President of the New York School Bus Contractors Association that’s currently working with 200 private bus companies from Buffalo to New York City and Long Island says buses will be disinfected daily with close attention placed on high touch points.

“Guard rails, handrails, seatbacks things like that to make sure the virus is killed instantly,” he said.

Muirhead is hoping for collaboration from school districts and believes buses can operate in a safe and efficient manner.

“If we don’t have the extra buses and drivers we at least do the extra routes to accommodate all the children that are supposed to be at that school to get them there in a timely fashion,” Muirhead said.

Gone are the days of three to a seat at least for now during COVID.

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