Transportation will present ‘challenge’ during Duval County school reopening

Transportation department developing plan to transport approx. 49,000 students with distancing guidelines

VIDEO: Duval county school leaders are trying to solve the problem of transportation this fall, as students will still be expected to practice social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A large part of Duval County Public Schools’ strategy to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 when the district reopens school buildings this fall involves strict adherence to social distancing guidelines.

“The first couple of weeks, transportation is going to be a challenge,” Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said to the School Board in Tuesday’s reopening workshop.

According to the district, approximately 49,000 Duval County students utilize the bus system to get to and from school, making social distancing during normal bus routes virtually impossible.

Following the 6-feet guideline would only allow between nine and 11 students on a full-size bus at one time and only three to five students on Exceptional Student Education busses.

The goal, according to Greene, is to limit the bus capacity to one student per seat, with the “worst-case scenario” being a two-student-per-seat arrangement.

Because social distancing is impossible on the school buses, that is the only setting in which students will be required to wear a face-covering, according to Greene.

Bus drivers will have a supply of masks to distribute to students who do not have one.

“Face coverings will be required for students on school buses where social distancing is not possible,” the district’s website said in a Tuesday reopening update. “Students with exceptionalities or medical conditions that prevent any type of face-covering could wear a face shield or some other accommodation based on the student’s needs.”

Large bottles of hand sanitizer will also be placed on each bus for passengers to use each time they enter or exit.

Unlike the plan for those entering school buildings, temperature screenings will not be performed on those boarding a bus due to the time constraints that the process would create. Also, Greene said temperature screenings would present logistical issues for any student found to be running a fever, as that student could not be left at the bus stop, and waiting on a parent or guardian to retrieve the student would create even more potential time constraints.

The district’s plan also requires each bus to be sanitized between each bus route, creating a new challenge in the timing of those routes.

Details of the bus schedule for the Fall 2020 semester are still being developed, but Greene said Tuesday that it’s possible the elementary and middle school bus routes will be shifted by a half hour.

Students will also be required to register their intention to use district transportation, allowing each bus driver to know who they’re supposed to pick up and drop off.

Greene said the budget for student transportation will be receiving a significant boost for the upcoming fiscal year, but did not expound on where those funds would be reallocated.

Changes to transportation routes are routinely published by the district on the page linked here.

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.