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Coronavirus: Kingston parents worry school busing precautions might not be enough

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Parents in Kingston area worry about busing as children return to school – Aug 18, 2020

Cyndie Gaylord’s son is going into Grade 5 this year and will be taking the bus.

With the Kingston-area school boards deemed as non-designated by the provincial government, Gaylord worries about the number of the children on the buses this year.

“There’s a little over 40 kids that get on at our bus stop and at one point we were running three kids to a seat.”

Angela Gordon, who has two children taking the bus this fall, says her concerns are the same as Gaylord’s and apply to both busing and the school room.

“I feel like maybe it’s not going to be the safest situation putting our kids on the bus, but at the same, time what do you do?”

Read more: Limestone District School Board sets out COVID-19 plans for back to school

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Tri-Board Student Transportation Services oversees student busing for the Limestone District School Board, Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board and the Hasting Prince Edward Public School Boards.

Tri-Board is responsible for getting approximately 30,000 students going to and from school everyday.

Physical distancing on buses will be helped somewhat by some parents opting for remote learning, according to the Tri-Boards head Gord Taylor.

“We suspect those will be diminished by 20 or 25 per cent because some parents are opting to do remote learning so they won’t be using the bus.”

Like schools, students Grade 4 and up have to wear masks, and Taylor is strongly encouraging parents to get younger children used to wearing masks as well.

New this year will be assigned seating for students on the bus, Taylor says, adding that will aid with contact tracing if there is a case of COVID-19.

Taylor says cleaning measures will also be enhanced.

“The school bus drivers and operators will be doing a treatment twice daily, an antiviral treatment, to make sure the bus touch surfaces have been treated appropriately.”

Read more: Coronavirus: A guide to back-to-school rules across Canada

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Java Craig has been driving school buses for seven years now and is a driver trainer as well.

She says she drives two routes a day and comes into contact with a lot of children.

“I could be in contact with 50 kids from each of my schools — so 100 kids twice a day.”

She fears that the measures might not be enough and says the cleaning should be done by professionals “who are accustomed to handling industrial chemicals, who have all the proper PPE, like the good stuff, the good masks, the good goggles and shields and gowns.”

Craig says many bus drivers in the area are older and worry about their own health if their is a COVID-19 outbreak.

“They just say I have conditions where i’m going to be in a bad way if I get sick or my spouse does and I can’t risk taking this home.”

Taylor says parents will have to be patient, adding there was a bus driver shortage before the coronavirus pandemic was declared.

“There may be days we’re running late because there’s a shortage of drivers.”

All the new rules, protocols and updates are posted on the Tri-Board website.

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