NAMPA, Idaho — As parents consider sending their kids back to school for in-person classes this fall, many are also asking themselves if their students should ride the bus to get there.
“It's definitely a challenging time,” said Operations Manager for the Brown Bus Company, Brent Carpenter. “We anticipate ridership will be down some, we just don’t know how many.”
The Brown Bus Company handles transportation for the Nampa, Wilder and Vallivue Schools Districts. The company also provides transportation for 15 charter schools in Ada and Canyon Counties.
“Just like everyone else, we're trying to put into place efforts to make the bus environment as safe as possible,” Carpenter said.
This means requiring or recommending students wear masks while riding the bus and constantly sanitizing and disinfecting.
“The two basic things we're going to be doing from an on-bus standpoint is drivers will do some disinfecting themselves, probably between routes,” Carpenter said.
A cleaning crew will also go through the buses once a day to disinfect the entire bus.
As for students and social distancing, Carpenter said the potential for a variety of hybrid classes will reduce the number of students riding the bus at one time, and in turn provide social distance. However, he admits maintaining the recommended six feet of distance may be difficult.
“We just don’t have enough buses and drivers to run double, triple the amount of transportation that we're currently running or would be running,” Carpenter said.
On Thursday, Idaho Gov. Brad Little's coronavirus financial advisory committee approved $50 million to increase and improve COVID-19 testing in Idaho, as well as equip schools with supplies needed to open safely. A portion of those funds will go toward providing masks, gloves, sanitizer and plexiglass.
As for bus drivers, they too will be encouraged to wear face masks.
“Probably the biggest concern that's been voiced is opposition to using a mask or wearing a mask,” Carpenter said. “We've had one or two drivers that don’t feel comfortable until there's a vaccine.”
But Carpenter says most of the drivers don't feel that way.
“They're ready to get back to work, they're looking forward to seeing their students again, they're up for the challenge and it is going to be a challenge,” Carpenter said.
Currently, the Brown Bus Company is in need of bus drivers and is actively recruiting as schools work to reopen.
KTVB reached out to other bus companies that work with other school districts. Some said it was too soon to share their plans.
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