At the outset of COVID-19, which seems like an eternity ago, you might recall shortages of toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. How could you forget? But today, those supply chain issues seem to have been resolved, for the most part.
Today’s race is to instead find a steady supply of disinfectants that kill the new coronavirus as well as personal protective equipment and contactless thermometers. Many of the businesses that support the school transportation industry have pivoted to offer these types of products for the 2020-2021 school year. Be sure to check with your local school bus dealer, industry manufacturers and parts distributors to help you out. They need you as much as you need them in these turbulent times.
Certainly, these solutions aren’t free, which is also causing much anxiety among our readers. But a plethora of grant resources are available to find funding above and beyond what the CARES Act offers school districts. And many school bus operations already have the routing, student tracking and vehicle inspection solutions to assist with cleaning verification and contact tracing.
That said, do you think schools will even reopen for in-person instruction, distance learning, or a hybrid of both? Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know. That about sums up what we are seeing and hearing around the country. A lot of uncertainty remains as COVID-19 infections are on the rise.
Are you waiting for help to build your school restart plan? Some good news came with the long-awaited STARTS Task Force Report, which was released last month. I was able to catch up with Tim Ammon, co-owner of the Decision Support Group and a task force co-manager, to discuss the findings and help provide high-level takeaways.
What is clear from the task force’s research, Ammon shared, is that COVID-19 is a national problem that requires local answers. Districts will have to develop their own response plans. These plans will be developed in the absence of many specific directives. This will require districts to use their judgment to make the best decisions possible about how to respond to all of the state reopening guidelines.
The critical resources developed by the task force are the guidelines and tasks included in the report. The guidelines addressed issues associated with physical distancing, the health and safety of staff, cleaning of buses, and management of facilities.
These resources will allow transportation professionals to model a variety of different expectations quickly and efficiently. They will then be able to inform their district leadership about what transportation will need to support school reopening plans.
The report also focuses on two other key concerns. The first is creating a decision-making process that is both sound and defensible when questions arise about reopening strategies. The second is the outline of a communications plan that will help districts clearly, concisely and completely tell all the different constituencies what they are doing and why.
I think technology innovations will play a big role in how schools successfully reopen and manage COVID-19 challenges. Speaking of which, I have a new innovation on the near horizon to share. The team at STN Media Group and our technology partners will come together to offer a new virtual conference experience called Bus Technology Summit, held Sept. 22 through 24.
Student transportation professionals will receive focused training and networking with peers as well as suppliers in a virtual environment. Participants will receive information on how the latest technological innovations stand to make student and school bus transportation safer and more efficient than ever. In addition to online conference sessions, attendees will partake in a virtual trade show experience that links attendees and exhibitors together.
I invite you to register free of charge and learn more by visiting http://bustechsummit.com.
You have a huge task in front of you but we are here to help.
Editor’s Note: As reprinted from the August issue of School Transportation News.