School transportation during a pandemic |

School transportation during a pandemic

Samantha Boring
Updated: March 08, 2021 01:25 PM
Created: March 08, 2021 07:14 AM

(ABC 6 NEWS) - Monday is the day that all schools in Minnesota must offer some form of in-person learning. It’s also a day some transportation plans change for students. 
Many kids walk, get dropped off, or take the bus to school. Some local districts have continued to make or keep the changes they made for the pandemic. 
"I had this feeling there just might be something coming and indeed there was,” said Kasson-Mantorville Superintendent, Mark Matuska.
That is how Superintendent Matuska felt this time last year when COVID first came into our lives. With case numbers low in the county, the Kasson-Mantorville school district was able to start kids in person this school year. "K through 6th has been in school all year long, in person and it has gone extremely well,” said Matuska.
This spring, students are back to in-person learning, meaning more students are riding the bus, but that looks different than last year. “We made the decision to split our bus routes, so we started transporting our k through 4 students and our 5 through 12 on another bus. That was a huge financial commitment, but we really felt it was worth it because we wanted to make sure we could isolate the kids as much as possible,” said Matuska.
This means that middle and high school students start and end their school days later than normal years. “We are going to be going back to a little more normal start time next year,” said Matuska.
Over in Austin, there was an extra challenge when it came to transportation. “It was a little more difficult in the Fall with the COVID and the transition we lost numerous bus drivers,” said Palmer Bus Service Manager, Trina Rios. 
Some drivers were unsure about driving during COVID. "As we got going the way we sanitized people were wearing masks it just made us kind of feel safer,” said Rios. 
Another change for Palmer Bus drivers was adding assigned seating and new bus routes. "Bus drivers had the same schedule for years so when you change their routing that was a little challenging at the beginning of the year,” said Rios. 
While there are many changes, officials hope things can continue to move toward getting out of the pandemic. “Right now there are changes every single day, so just to get back to that normalcy and I think everybody would agree on that,” said Rios. 
In Stewartville, schools are operating on a two-tier bus system where different grade levels start and end at different times. The buses are also kept at 50% capacity. 
Albert Lea is also operating on a tiered system where elementary and secondary students have new end times. 

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