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.
“As we look to this fall … this is going to be a first day of school unlike any we’ve seen,” said Governor Tim Walz during the press conference on July 30th. In the “Safe Learning Plan” state officials are taking a “localized, data-driven approach” to reopening schools amid the global pandemic, with a goal of getting students back in the classroom while minimizing the spread of the virus.
With schools resuming this fall, we recognize this may be putting an extra burden on school transportation staff and administrators to make plans to safely get kids to/from school with minimal spread of germs. We’re here to provide some resources to support walking and biking to school, a low viral transmission way to arrive at school ready to learn.
The National Safe Routes partnership has developed a School Messaging Guide and Back to School 2020: Recommendations for Safe Routes to School Programming, a comprehensive set of short-term,actionable recommendations for implementing Safe Routes to School programs this fall, with recommendations for in-person, hybrid, and distance learning.
Traffic congestion may be a concern around many schools as we expect more parents and caregivers to want or need to drive their students to/from school. Creating a separate park and walk spot can create space for COVID checks to occur and space out students entering the school building to limit congestion from students using buses, biking, or walking. See our Park and Walk page and Park and Walk guide for more information.
Closing down a street in front of school can reduce the congestion of students entering schools and waiting for COVID screening. Create queueing boxes and organization for student arrival while also creating space for outdoor classrooms during the day.
See our School Streets Guide for tips on implementing these stratgies. Then read the School Streets summary or full guide from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). Also check out our Arrival and Dismissal during COVID-19 guide.
Demonstration projects may also provide temporary installations that create more space for people to safely walk and bike to school.
Walking School Buses provide adult supervision and guidance for a group of children to walk to school. This is a similar approach to a crossing guard but also helps students safely navigate the route and cross all of the streets on the way to school. Walking School Buses are easiest when the leader meets students at one location and walks the group safely to/from school. These starting and ending locations may be from multifamily housing or apartments, mobile home parks, or the entrance of a subdivision. This strategy can advance equity goals and meet the most common concern for parents: the lack of adult supervision on the way to/from school while walking. Review the Walking School Bus Guide and MnSRTS COVID considerations.
Bicycling to school can be a great opportunity for students to social distance, get some exercise and travel longer distances than by foot. However, if multiple students are locking up at the bike rack this may provide COVID transmission opportunity. Consider spacing out bike racks or acquiring temporary bike racks from the parks department or other partners to provide more space for students to lock up safely.
Many schools have Bike Fleets to teach Walk! Bike! Fun! Safety Curriculum in P.E. Keep this curriculum going with our COVID Bike Fleet Guidance to safely support your P.E. teachers in a curriculum that keeps kids active, but apart.
With more parents and caregivers transporting kids to school there may be a need for more staff to support arrival and dismissal. Consider having staff complete the short online Crossing Guard training to make sure they are confident as they help direct traffic this fall. Additionally, there is a Student Safety Patrol training available online to support the continuation of that program as in-person training opportunities may be limited.
We have adapted our Walk! Bike! Fun! Curriculum, which is typically taught over a few weeks in physical education classes or out of school youth programs for distance learning. These lessons include both worksheets and outdoor walking and biking activities to complete virtually. These activity resources have options for how the student may complete them depending on the equipment and technology available to them.
Safe Routes Partnership developed communications materials to help you encourage walking and biking to school or other destinations this fall.
Here are some videos to share with families and students to help them walk and bike safely this fall: