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Operating School Transport During COVID - Round Table Discussion Summary


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The International School Recovery Forum recently held a Round Table Discussion with International Schools from around the world to discuss the lessons learned and challenges faced in operating a school bus transportation service during COVID-19.  Below are some of the insights from the schools and guidance from transportation consultants.

Temperature reading 

Taking temperature outside of bus and before the student enters the bus:

  • If the child’s temperature is found to be elevated the student should be returned home.
  • Note that ambient temperature outside the bus could impact on the actual temperature reading and the ability of non-medical trained staff taking temperatures.  


Wearing Masks:
Requirement for use of masks on the bus and how it is managed: 

  • All schools had a mandatory mask wearing policy on their buses. Occasional problems with students removing the mask exist, however most schools felt they had the backing of the parents. Not having bus monitors on the bus to oversee did present some problems.  
    • Some schools provide masks on the buses.
    • Some schools require students to have two masks.
    • Discipline is taken seriously, and schools will ban students if they do not comply.


Social Distancing

  • Several schools had a hybrid attendance program in place; allowing for social distancing as buses were not at full capacity.  
  • Not all schools have seating arrangements, and some schools ran at full capacity; however, this is changing as the procedure better aligns with managing “bubbles/cohorts”.
  • Consensus was that if protocols are followed, students should not become infected on the bus (focus on mask wearing, use of hand sanitizers and temperature checking).



  • Students are required to sanitise their hands when entering the bus.
  • Bus operators were responsible for sanitizing school buses, but generally did not know or have documentation of the operator’s protocols.

Planning/scheduling routes

  • Social distancing, occupancy limitation on buses and hybrid attendance variations are the measures most impacting on bus scheduling and planning.  
  • Schools were cognisant that the occupancy on buses needed to be managed with respect to who is on what bus (tracing) and the numbers on each bus (social distancing).
  • Not all schools were social distancing.
  • One school moved bus stops to rebalance number students on any one route where this was possible; the purpose is to enable social distancing due to limited capacity while avoiding the need of additional vehicles.  
  • Schools which have a hybrid attendance model have not required additional vehicles to manage occupancy as there are less children using the bus each day.  
  • Schools not yet open were concerned about tracking students and how best to plan routes based on who would need the bus/attend school.
  • Schools using registration systems (digital) and communication systems had more control over the situation. 
    • managing data on which students were on any bus on any day which could be used for tracing.
    • Ability to change route structure and communicate to parents quickly and minimised administration time required to communicate. 
  • With the above capabilities, the school was confident in their ability to make changes as required.  Schools without this capability, while supportive of their communication team, strongly felt that an automated student tracing app would be of great benefit to improve safety for their students now and after the pandemic.  



  • Schools required more staff to assist in the additional protocols, especially with respect to arrival and departures. 
  • Complacency is an issue amongst staff and students and the managers stated that they do need to maintain diligence.  


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This was a great discussion. 

Other considerations is the use of hand sanitiser. Would suggest following recommendations from WHO. If bus companies supply hand sanitiser who is monitoring the expiry dates, are bottles being refilled, (this would be putting older hand sanitiser on to new hand sanitiser , also hand sanitiser from different batches and expiry dates would be mixed - This is not considered best practise or recommended ), do buses have a standard hand sanitiser across all buses, who monitors that the buses are utilising the recommended hand sanitiser. 

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