According to American School Bus Council, 26 million students take a bus to school every day in the United States. It would be expected that the safety on school buses would be a priority, as parents put their trust in them every day to keep their children safe. However on one of the many bus routes that take students to Fargo North High, this is not the case.
Bus number 1, also called the rural route, has been putting less of a priority on the safety of the students. The rural route goes from Reiles’s Acres to Harwood, then into Fargo. It could be a long drive to-and-from school, yet the supervision is not adequate.
The CDC has recommended, “Drivers and aides should create distance between children on school buses, including seating children one student per row facing forward and skipping rows between students. Children from the same household can sit together, if needed,” in attempts to ensure safety and lessen the spread of COVID-19. The bus has been overly-crowded for those who ride on it. Kids are being forced to stand or even sit on the ground. According to Kira Olson, a freshman at North, “the bus is overcrowded and kids are standing a lot.” On a normal day, there are between 1-3 kids that do not have a seat, excluding the kids who have to sit three to one seat. Most buses have 22 to 24 seats; the rural route bus has 22.
The CDC also recommends things like wiping down commonly used surfaces, having spare masks and having hand sanitizer readily available, but these directions have not been taken seriously. Valley Buses have also set COVID-19 protocol. Students are required to wear masks while on the bus. The general manager of valley buses stated, “Students are required to wear masks until the end of the school year.” When it comes to people actually following the directions regarding wearing masks on the bus, “The majority of people don’t wear them” said Olson.
A precedent was set by the bus driver back in February of this year, when he himself stopped wearing a mask while driving the bus. This has been upsetting some students who ride the bus.
“It’s unsafe. Covid is a real thing and [the bus driver] doesn’t really tell the kids that they need to wear them. Which they do, they are supposed to but they never do,” said Olson.
To follow more recommended COVID-safe guidelines, Fargo North High has said for students riding the bus to scan their student IDs when they got on and off the bus, only a small portion of the students did. There was no way to track whether someone was exposed to COVID-19, because no seating chart was ever given. If there were any precautions taken, they were enforced by the students themselves.
For people whose only way to get to and from school is taking the bus, all of these issues during a pandemic can be concerning. Most of the students on the bus, who are in elementary school, will tell you that they love taking the bus and that the driver is amazing, but looking at what happens from an outsider’s perspective, it is clear that safety on the bus is not something that is prioritized. If guidelines aren’t being followed how can safety be ensured for the kids riding the bus?