Social Distancing Guidelines Will Keep Many Kids Off the School Bus

With new social distancing protocols in place, not every student will be able to ride the bus to school in Massachusetts this fall

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New social distancing guidelines have Massachusetts school districts scrambling to figure out which students will get a seat on the school bus.

Administrators say the capacity restrictions will most likely force more students to walk or find another way to get to school.

In Chelmsford, the superintendent said in a memo that it is "operationally impossible" to transport as many students as last year. He is suggesting busing only students they are legally required to, which would mean kids in kindergarten through sixth grade who live more than two miles away from their school.

Working parents say the potential school bus problem would leave them in the lurch.

"How am I supposed to make rent if I don't go to my job?" asked parent Kenllie Santana. "I don't have time to drop her off."

Medford Public Schools are in the same position. The social distancing restrictions will force them to reduce their school bus ridership by almost 70 percent. They are still working on a plan for students, but administrators say there is no simply solution.

"It's not a situation that we could resolve even if we had a magic pot of money just to buy new school buses, because there's also a school bus and van driver shortage," said Medford's assistant superintendent, Peter Cushing. "It's an unwinnable scenario."

School administrators say whatever they come up with, they will suggest alternatives such as carpooling or walking in socially-distanced groups. Parents who have another way to get their children to school may also be asked to give up their bus spots voluntarily to those who do not.

"We're just trying to come up with what the plan is to get kids to school," said Maurice Edourard-Vincent, Medford's superintendent. "Transportation is truly going to be a challenge."

School administrators say another challenge will be making sure there are enough crossing guards to keep students safe. The pandemic has slashed many school budgets, so while they may need to hire more, they might not have the money to do it.

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