Bus Éireann has announced that one-fifth of its secondary school buses will run at half capacity from the start of the new school year.
The operator says it is reviewing all 2,100 post-primary routes to determine which solution can most quickly and appropriately deliver the 50 per cent capacity. Solutions will range from schedule changes to additional resources in terms of vehicles and drivers.
Bus Éireann adds it is ensuring that all vetting and inspection of quality and safety standards is maintained on buses, as well as appropriate procurement processes.
Drivers and contractors will also be trained about the Covid-19 prevention protocols across primary and post-primary transport.
In relation to both primary and post-primary school transport, the guidelines already communicated to parents by the Department of Education include the following:
- Not to use school transport if students are displaying any symptoms of Covid-19.
- To maintain physical distancing while waiting for transport.
- To always sit in pre-assigned seating and next to a sibling or child from same class group.
- To use hand sanitiser on boarding the bus.
- To observe respiratory etiquette at all times while waiting for and on-board transport services.
- To disembark the bus one by one in an orderly fashion.
- With the exception of those children who for medical or special educational needs reasons are not in a position to wear a facemask or face covering, all other children aged 13 years and over to wear facemasks while waiting for and on-board transport services.
Bus Éireann says there will be enhanced cleaning of school buses, including between morning and afternoon services.
Last year, the School Transport Scheme accommodated 38,000 primary students and 68,000 post-primary. 14,200 were students with special educational needs.
According to the operator, more than 70 per cent of students availing of school transport are eligible for the Scheme– in other words they live more than 3.2km (primary) or 4.8km (post-primary) from their nearest school.
Any parent/guardian wishing to organise alternative transport arrangements is entitled to a full refund of their School Transport Scheme fees from Bus Éireann.
The Minister of Education, Norma Foley, TD has also announced that, at the end of the school year, a grant will be available relating to post-primary children who are eligible for transport whose parents/guardians choose to make private transport arrangements arising from the most recent health advice.
This must be notified to the Department of Education at email@example.com by this Friday, September 4.
“The entire team at Bus Éireann has been providing road passenger services nationwide over the past six months and is well-experienced in managing Covid-19 prevention measures. We have worked intensively with all stakeholders – the Department of Education, contractors, drivers – so that the school bus will be there on reopening day for every student with a valid ticket, with significant additional public health measures,” said Miriam Flynn, chief schools officer, Bus Éireann.