REOPENING UPDATE: Wilmington School Buses Won’t Have Monitors; Most Buses Near Half-Capatcity; All Requests Fulfilled Without Adding New Buses

WILMINGTON, MA — At a meeting last week, Wilmington Public Schools Transportation Coordinator Lisa Faretra provided an update on the school district’s transportation services for the 2020-2021 school year in response to COVID-19.

“A bus pass program has been established for all students requesting bus service,” said Faretra. “Parents and guardians have been asked to register their children for transportation and we will be providing students with a pass card to afix to their backpacks to board their assigned bus.”

Faretra assured the School Committee that ridership will never exceed the maximum occupancy set forth in the DESE guidance of 25 students per bus/1 student per seat.

Based on parent survey results, Faretra anticipates the average number of students per bus will never exceed 20 — High School (20), Middle School (16), Woburn Street & North Intermediate (14), Shawsheen & West Intermediate (12), Wildwood (13) and Boutwell (13).

Faretra noted that the the district’s number of buses remains at 16. 4 additional bus runs will take place to accommodate drop off and pick up due to half-days at the Boutwell and Wildwood. These additional bus runs have resulted in a “minimal cost increase.”

“We’re still using a fleet of 16 buses,” Faretra told the Committee. “Essentially, everything will be running as normal.”

Faretra noted that the transportation department, after careful thought, has decided not to provide monitors on each bus.

“With an industry-wide staffing shortage, employing monitors would be extremely challenging,” said Faretra, who noted other districts who attempted to hire their own monitors have been unsuccessful. “We are confident that with lower ridership, distancing, seating arrangements, and a low tolerance policy resulting in suspension of bus privileges for failure to adhere to the new guidance, we will be able to provide a safe rider to and from school.”

Camera systems on the buses will be utilized to ensure that riders are following the guidance, according to Faretra.

Faretra added that hand santizier will be provided to the students by the driver on all school buses and vans.

“Although at the moment we are able to accommodate the community’s needs in transportation, it is likely that – in the near future – we will have to reconsider the current policy and adhere to the School Committee’s guidelines on walking distance and deny transportation services to students within a specific radius of their school,” warned Faretra.

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