Gina Solorzano, director of transportation for Marble Falls Independent School District, added disposable masks, hand sanitizer stations, extra trash cans, and facial tissues to each bus rolling out on the first day of school Wednesday, Aug. 19. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
Buses are ready to roll in the Marble Falls and Burnet school districts, but transportation directors for both are asking parents to get their children to and from school, if possible.
“If parents are able to transport their students, that will result in lower numbers on our buses,” said Gina Solorzano, director of transportation at Marble Falls Independent School District. “I’m thanking them in advance for doing that during this time, leaving seats open for those kids who don’t otherwise have transportation.”
To protect against the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, students on MFISD buses will be assigned seating and grouped with family members, who can sit next to each other, freeing up other seats for those who have to be spaced apart.
Burnet Consolidated ISD bus drivers will allow only two students per bench seat for a maximum of 50 students per 78-passenger bus. If too many are assigned to a route, buses will make two trips to get everyone to school on time.
“Our plan includes providing transportation to all students who request it,” said Clay Goehring, director of business and finance at BCISD. “To help with that, we are encouraging parents and families to bring their kids themselves if possible.”
NEW BUS APP
Marble Falls is introducing a new, free app for parents that will connect them directly to transportation information. The StopFinder app can be downloaded onto smartphones to provide bus stop and schedule information as well as texts to parents when students have arrived at school or home. An email to parents with information about assigned bus routes will include a link to the app.
“Parents can see stop locations, the bus number, and they will get push notifications for any changes in the route,” Solorzano said. “This platform is taking us to another level. Parents will be able to directly communicate with transportation through this app.”
Close quarters on buses mean face coverings will be required. Bus drivers will provide masks to students who do not have one. Buses in both districts also will be equipped with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, facial tissues, and extra trash cans. Drivers will regularly wipe down high-touch areas, and buses will be disinfected between trips.
Marble Falls also plans to open bus windows, weather permitting, to increase circulation. The air conditioner will continue to run even when windows are open, also to increase circulation.
BCISD students have two chances to comply with new mask and seating rules before losing bus-riding privileges.
“We have a two-strike policy,” Goehring said. “If a student is told more than two times to wear a mask, they will be removed from the bus.”
In Marble Falls, most problems on the bus will be handled at the driver level, Solorzano said.
“If drivers need additional assistance to handle students who continually take their masks off, that will be handled at the campus level,” she continued.
Education, patience, and training are three keys to successfully adjusting to new regimes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, both districts agreed.
“Educating the kids will be the biggest thing,” Solorzano said. “Getting into the habit of using that hand sanitizer, learning not to touch each other, not sharing things.”
Patience is needed to deal with the ever-changing landscape. What is written here today could be old news by tomorrow.
“We are trying to follow guidelines that are changing every day,” said Josh Albro, BCISD transportation director. “We realize that’s a challenge to parents. It’s also a challenge for the district. A little bit of patience will make a huge difference.”
Drivers have been training for the new regulations and will be ready to go when the first day of class rolls around. For Burnet, that is Thursday, Aug. 20. Marble Falls students returning to the classrooms for in-person instruction will begin school on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Remote learners start Friday, Aug. 21.
“Drivers will have a big role to play,” Solorzano said. “I think we are prepared for what we are getting into.”
“We want parents to know that we will not let transportation issues interfere with the instructional day,” he said. “Students will get to school in time to get their breakfast and get to class.”