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COVID-19 Considerations for Walking School Buses

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.

What is a Walking School Bus (WSB)?

Walking School Buses are a safe and fun way for a group of children to walk to school with adult supervision and guidance. Walking School Buses identify routes, pick up students at designated spots and times and then adults (or older students) walk to school together while helping each other safely navigate the way. Walking School Bus leaders can be volunteers or paid school staff like a paraprofessional or a parent paid a stipend.

How can WSBs help relieve school transportation issues during the pandemic?

  • Reductions in school bus capacity and potential expansions of walk/bike zones for schools that are using an in-person teaching model require supporting other safe, socially distant modes of travel like walking and bicycling
  • With buses carrying fewer students, there is the potential to have many more students being dropped off by personal vehicles, increasing congestion and decreasing safety for everyone arriving at school. Walking School Buses help alleviate this issue by reducing the number of vehicles at dropoff
  • WSBs are a low-cost student transportation strategy that can be undertaken while new approaches are considered to address social distance with limited resources.
  • Utilizing parent, caregiver and school volunteers to fill in the gaps of transportation, as some may be teleworking and have more flexible schedules that allow them to be walking school bus leaders
  • Leader stipends may benefit parents and caregivers economically disadvantaged by the recession

WSB Best Practices

Walking School Buses work best when the leader meets students at one location and walks the group safely to/from school.  These starting and ending locations may be multifamily housing or apartments, mobile home parks, or the entrance to a subdivision. This strategy can advance equity goals and meet the most common concern for parents about students walking: the lack of adult supervision on the way to/from school.

What to consider this year during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Ensure adults and students wear masks, have ample hand sanitizer and other CDC-suggested personal protective equipment as needed. Provide supplies as needed, along with safety vests, stop paddles, and other helpful crossing guard tools for the Walking School Bus leader. Our crossing guard training provides a standard minimum amount of training for adult crossing guards.
  • Follow social distancing guidelines between students while walking the route. Consider safety of students while crossing the street if they are spread out, this may require leaders to provide more of a crossing guard role. An adult leader leads children across a crosswalk, each holding on to a rope to maintain six feet of distance from each other.
  • Monitor leader and students' health, encourage unwell students and adult leaders to stay home when ill.
  • Have backup leaders identified if an adult is ill or has been exposed and needs to quarantine, or a backup plan for students to get to/from school safely.
  • Develop a process to quickly notify students and families if a member of the Walking School Bus was/is ill with COVID19 and the impacts that will have on the Walking School Bus.

Image courtesy of the Sylva Herald, Sylva, NC.

To learn more about Walking School Buses, check out the Step by Step guide to start a Walking School Bus.