×

Bus changes await students

District transportation department ready for COVID-19 year

T-R PHOTOS BY LANA BRADSTREAM — Rex Kozak, Transportation Director for the Marshalltown Community School District, stands on one of the buses ready to pick up kids on Tuesday for the first day of school. Many changes have been implemented to protect students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Busing will look a lot different this year for Marshalltown Community School District students.

Many changes have been implemented to help protect students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transportation Director Rex Kozak said the bus atmosphere will look a lot different.

“We are limited to social distancing on the bus,” he said. “We are following CDC guidelines which has 3-foot distancing. So, one student per seat.”

Kozak said the only time two students can sit in the same seat is if they are from the same family. Otherwise, seating on buses will be limited. Buses previously holding 77 students will be reduced to 25, and 65-passenger buses will transport 21 students. That is something the district will not budge on, he said.

Drivers will take temperatures of students as they get off the bus and go into the school buildings.

Due to the limited seating, that also means some buses will have to run double routes. As soon as the first group of students on the bus are dropped off at a school building, the interior will be quickly wiped down and then the driver will depart to pick up the second group of students. Kozak said seven or eight buses will be running double routes – two trips before school and two trips afterward each day.

“There will also be no pay-for rides because of limited bus spacing,” he said. “If a student is not registered to ride the bus, they will not be able to pay a fee to get a ride to school.”

The pay-for rides is something the school district used in previous years.

Kozak said there are a lot of students not registered to ride the buses, but he is expecting some requests to begin after school starts.

“I would like to ask the parents that if your child is not registered for a bus, please take them to school the first few days and then talk to us,” he said.

Stickers will be placed on students as they get off the bus and go into the school buildings. After temperatures are taken, a green sticker will mean they are good to go. A red sticker means they should stop at the nurse’s office.

Kozak is asking for those first few days to allow his department to get used to the new changes. Afterward, more students can be added to bus routes.

He also asks for students to be ready to get on the bus five minutes prior to its scheduled arrival. To help parents and families with that, Kozak said the district is in the process of getting an app that will allow families to see when buses are approaching their childrens stops.

“We are working on that in between everything else,” he said.

On and off the bus

Marshalltown Community School District Transportation Director Rex Kozak figures out bus routes for the 2020-21 school year, which starts on Tuesday. His department has extra challenges this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seating on buses will be similar to a checker board. If a student is sitting next to a window, the student behind him or her will be sitting next to the window. The seating will be opposite of that across the aisle.

“It is really important for kids to know that,” Kozak said.

Students will also be assigned to seats, and hopefully he said they will get used to the seating quickly.

Also, all students will be required to wear masks.

“Unless they have a medical excuse on file with the school,” Kozak said. “They need the masks to protect themselves and others on the bus.”

Students will be seated on Marshalltown Community School District buses to allow for social distancing. Students are not allowed to sit in spaces with red dots.

If students refuse to wear masks, Kozak said they may be asked to temporarily stop riding.

“Parents will be contacted, but we will take the opportunity to work with the family until we get it straightened out,” he said. “We cannot put others at risk.”

The director also hopes to get kids to sit in the seats starting at the back of the bus and then working their way forward when they are picked up before and after school.

“We want them to sit in their assigned seats and follow a pattern of getting on and off the buses safely,” Kozak said.

Students will also be offered hand sanitizer when they board the buses by drivers.

As students get off the buses and get ready to enter school buildings, they will also have temperatures taken by drivers. Stickers will then be applied to the students – green means the temperatures are good. Red stickers mean temperatures are concerning and students need to see the nurse in the school building.

This year has been a challenge for the transportation department, and school has not even started yet. However, Kozak is grateful for so many families being patient.

“We have faced so many things since July, and I really appreciate everyone who is understanding and willing to work with us,” he said. “This is going to be a challenge ahead, but we have to let it work through.”

——

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or

lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

Newsletter

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)