HAVERHILL — As the school year begins here, the new normal calls for limiting the number of students on each bus to create social distancing.
COVID-19 requires a tightly structured transportation system, with students getting on buses they are assigned to and avoiding confusion at bus stops, school officials said.
As students return to classrooms Monday, officials are asking parents to embrace the new normal to avoid busing problems. Parents are being urged to make sure their children get on the bus they are assigned to.
“We’re not trying to be difficult, but we only have so many seats on every bus,” said Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling, explaining social distancing rules limit the number of students to one per seat, except in the case of siblings who are allowed to share a seat. “We have no extra seats on these buses.”
Distribution of bus passes to families of students began Friday at each school and continues into this week. The passes contain a variety of information, including the names of students and the buses they are assigned to.
Pfifferling said that for the next two weeks, students can ride buses without a pass and, when they arrive at school, a staff member will check to see if they should have received a pass or if they don’t qualify for one.
This year, with COVID-19 threatening to spread, is the first time Havehill public school students have used bus passes.
Pfifferling said that because of the need to keep students socially distanced on buses, there is a limit of about 25 students per bus at the elementary grade level. Last year the limit was 60 per bus.
John McCarthy, owner of NRT Bus company which transports Haverhill students, was asked at last week’s School Committee meeting what happens if a student with a bus pass brings along a friend who isn’t registered to be on that particular bus, but needs to get to school.
“Who is going to be policing students on buses?” School Committee member Paul Magliocchetti asked, noting his main concern is to avoid a child being left alone at the side of the road because a bus was at capacity.
McCarthy said arrangements will be made to transport the child in a case like that, and they will not be left alone at any time.
Students will attend classes at school one day per week for the next two weeks. After that, students using the hybrid learning model will be in classrooms two days per week and learn remotely from home the other three days.
Students who chose to do all learning remotely online from home began their academic year last week.