New legislation introduced in Ohio would allow school districts to install a protective barrier around or near the school bus driver compartment to limit the spread of germs with students.
House Bill 615, introduced on May 6 by Rep. Lisa Sobecki, states that an “owner of a school bus may install a protective barrier around or near the operator’s seat of the school bus for purposes of providing protection to the operator from infectious diseases.”
The bill states that the protective barrier may be inspected by the Ohio State Highway Patrol to ensure compliance. The act is declared to be an “emergency measure necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”
The bill further states that immediate action is curial to protecting the public during an outbreak of COVID-19 and any additional infectious disease outbreaks. If passed and signed into law, the act would go into effect immediately.
The bill was referred to the Transportation and Public Safety Committee at this writing.
The legislation was filed in advance of draft recommendations issued by the Ohio Department of Education that will detail a plan for reopening schools. The plan contains a limited section on transportation, which states that students should be transported in a manner that is safe for everyone.
The draft document does state that distancing students six feet apart should be maintained on the school bus. However, there is nothing discussing the guidance on protective barriers.
Bruce Berry, director of transportation for Black River Local Schools in Sullivan, Ohio, indicated that he has noted a discrepancy between guidance provided by the state department of health and the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the latter which is responsible for writing the laws for school bus construction and inspection. This includes what equipment can and cannot be installed in and on a school bus.
He said he was also informed by the former state director of pupil transportation that the Ohio Highway State Patrol school bus standards section would not be authorizing plexiglass barriers around the driver’s area on Ohio school buses.
Berry shared that he felt plexiglass barriers were not feasible and would prefer a face shield as it would be clear and wouldn’t restrict driver visibility.
However, Berry added that the Ohio State Highway Patrol also indicated that face masks worn by drivers would likely not be required because they might reduce a driver’s visibility of the road.
Meanwhile, followers of the School Transportation News Facebook page and additional transportation directors have largely indicated concerns with barriers to separate school bus drivers and students, as the driver could have a hard time seeing the students.
Editor’s Note: School Transportation News reached out to the Ohio Department of Education, and the Ohio Association of Pupil Transportation for comment but had not heard back at this writing.
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