Out of the 32,000 students at Lafayette Parish schools, an average of 18,000 take the bus. In our new world of sanitation and social distancing, that poses a real problem for school officials.
“We went through multiple plans to find the best plan there was out there to give the kids,” LPSS chief administrative officer Jennifer Gardner says.
The governor’s Phase Two plan allows for 50 percent capacity on buses. The largest bus LPSS has is a 72-passenger, which means, at most, there will be 36 students allowed on a bus.
“Some buses will have to go ahead and run a double-run. Some will fit on a single-run," Gardner says. "But it will look different from the moment the students get to the bus stop in the morning.”
Before students even get on the bus, the first thing they'll do is mask up. Next, they'll use the newly-installed hand sanitizer up front. Then once they’re all the way on the bus, they'll head all the way to the back to find a seat.
That way, students won’t have to cross each other to find a seat. Siblings will sit together on the same row, and the high backs to the seats will help cut down on any germ spreading.
The bus driver will be taking extra precautions, as well: wearing a mask and wiping everything down.
“When all the kids unload the bus at the school, the bus driver will actually get up and clean each seat, the tops of each seat, any touchable surfaces the kids have touched through the ride, loading and unloading, to provide the safest and cleanest environment for the students,” Gardner explains.
Since school will now operate on an A/B schedule, there won’t be quite so many kids to bus in, but an hour of face-to-face afternoon instruction is now shaved off so drivers can make those double runs.
“So it did create a big challenge, but of course we accomplished our goal and find a way to make it happen,” Gardner says.
Parents are also stepping up in a big way. Close to 70 percent are offering to drive their kids to school. Officials say if you can drop your kids off and pick them up, it’s a big help to those bus drivers.