Massachusetts releases busing guidelines for upcoming school year

School Updates

BOSTON (WPRI) ─ While it’s still unclear what the first day of school will look like in Massachusetts, education officials released new guidelines on how students should be bused to school.

The new guidelines, released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Thursday, include reducing bus capacity, assigned seats, mask wearing and opening windows for proper ventilation.

All students will sit by themselves, according to the guidelines, with an empty row between each and alternating sides. The new seating formation will reduce bus capacities to between 33-43%.

An example provided by the state shows that a bus that can hold 77 students will only hold 25 under the new guidelines.

David Strong, the president of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts, tells Eyewitness News that both transportation and education officials have to work together to figure out the logistics.

“We just hope that everybody can be patient and understanding,” Strong said. “It’s a new territory for basically everyone involved. It’s really complicated, there’s a lot of questions and basically no answers.”

Strong said ensuring there are enough buses to properly follow these guidelines won’t be easy.

“There’s probably 9,000 buses in the state of Massachusetts,” Strong said. “To tell the manufactures we need 18,000 more tomorrow or the next month – not going to happen.”

While there are still plenty of unknowns, Strong said the state’s suggestion to have a bus monitor on board as students adjust to the new normal.

“We’re asking kids to wear masks and sit in certain seats, kids are going to be kids,” he said. “The driver’s primary job is to drive that bus safely in the traffic conditions that we encounter today. Having a monitor would certainly help there. We can’t drive safely and be looking in the mirror all the time.”

There is one exception to the one-student-per-seat rule, according to the state guidelines. Siblings from the same household will be allowed to sit together on the bus.

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