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Arrival and Dismissal during the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is an evolving pandemic; our ideas are some considerations for your planning and what may work to help with student transportation. Please follow Minnesota Department of Health guidance for COVID-19.

Going back to school this year will pose new logistical challenges in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students arriving at school may need health screenings and to practice social distancing which will slow the entrance to school, leaving school staff to monitor and mitigate congestion. School buses will need to operate at lower capacity, leaving parents and caregivers to consider carpooling or driving students, which will increase traffic around schools. Below are a few suggestions that encourage students to walk or bike to school, reducing traffic congestion and easing the bottleneck of students waiting for health screenings as they arrive at school.

Create space for arrival and dismissal and even class with School Streets

  • School Streets, a strategy included in the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Pandemic response guide, involves closing the street surrounding the school to reclaim space for students to safely get to (and be at) school. This could reduce the congestion of students arriving at school caused by health screenings. It would also provide outdoor classroom space for students to distance, stretch and have a different learning environment.¬†Additionally, this allows students walking or biking from home or a remote drop-off location to safely use a greater area of the street to get to school. School streets are a best practice from other global cities that are mitigating the pandemic and sending students back to school.

Bus Stop and Walk

  • Bus Stop and Walk, or dropping students at a distance from school so they can walk the rest of the way, is a staple of Safe Routes to School. This year, it will help the flow of students into school and reduce traffic conflicts related to the competition for space between buses, parent/caregiver vehicles and students walking and bicycling. Students can be dropped off by the bus at a park, church parking lot, or other nearby location to walk the rest of the way. This can reduce congestion near schools and get kids active, which can improve physical and mental health and help students arrive awake and ready to learn.

Park and Walk

  • Ease congestion at parent drop-off and pick-up by identifying a location that encourages a short walk to and from school each day. This may be one, or several locations on the other side of the school sports fields, a nearby church, a park, or even a large employer that makes it easier for parents to get to work and their kids to school. Allowing students to get some fresh air and exercise to help ease the transition in and out of school supports their health and wellbeing.

Traffic Safety for Staff

You may have more staff monitoring arrival and dismissal this year. Require any staff who are supporting traffic control to complete our short online Crossing Guard Training. Keep their certificate on file and know they have the skills to safely support students.

Remember, the behavioral science concept of the “fresh start effect” means parents may be more willing to try a different behavior at the start of the school year. To help them determine alternative transportation options there are three important ingredients:

  • Communicate clearly. Acknowledge the challenges this school year will bring and ask for their help to mitigate congestion. Encourage them to try different approaches to getting to school to help make this safer for all students, whether they are walking, biking, carpooling, or riding the bus.
  • Provide safety education and tips. To reassure them that their students will be safe walking and biking to school, parents may need some tips and educational resources, which can be distributed through back-to-school mailings, social media and electronic newsletters. Use school signs and other space around school to remind drivers to slow down.
  • Encourage and incentivize different options. Behavior change requires some extra nudges to be successful and incentives don’t have to be costly. Can students walking or biking get to the front of the health screening line? Would a local business provide a coupon? Even just a sticker can brighten a child’s day in these challenging times.