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Parents, School Leaders Weighing Challenges Surrounding Safely Transporting Children To And From School Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The deadline is fast approaching for families to decide whether to send their child to school or let them learn at home in these days of COVID-19.

One of the first issues facing families and school districts is how to safely transport the kids to school.

Megan Patton is the head of transportation for the region's largest school district.

"Pittsburgh Public Schools is taking the approach that every student is going to wear a mask and we're going to seat one student to a seat," Patton said.

For safety reasons, no barriers between the seats or around the driver can be added to a school bus.

Patton says the way the schools (Pittsburgh Public provides transportation for 200 schools beyond its own) are implementing their school plans will help.

"A number of our schools have reduced the capacity to about 50%. In some cases there is more, so that will assist us with the bus transportation. The buses will decrease capacity by 67%. So, a 72 passenger bus will only hold 24 students. A 48 passenger will hold 16 students. And a nine passenger van will hold approximately 3 students," Patton said.

They've been crunching the numbers at Pittsburgh Public School's transportation office and she says, "As of right now, we do not have to double back for our big bus runs, with some of our smaller vans that's a possibility, but for our bigger buses we won't have to double back."

A lot of the safety responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the bus drivers.

Patton says, "The drivers will have to clean every time they drop off a load of students. It's a 40a product. It has a three minute dwell time so it won't be wet when the students get on the bus."

The disinfectant will land on all high touch areas like the windows and the seats.

Drivers will also be charged with making sure students riding on the bus comply with the new rules.

Patton says, "We're going to notify the families of the expectations of the school bus so they are aware. And there's going to be a video sent to the families to let them know what their children can expect the first day back."

All this might sound like a well oiled, well planned operational plan but Patton says it's like trying to hit a moving target.

"We have a number of different schools that are adjusting their plans on a daily basis. Some are going virtual, some are going 33% capacity in school, some are rotating every other day, so we're just tracking all this and preparing to get our buses ready."

There are a lot of things to take into consideration before decisions are made and the buses roll.

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