Wake County Schools

Masks, spacing and a promise from parents required when Wake students board the bus

When Wake County public schools welcome students back to campus, riding the bus will look different.

Posted Updated

Sloane Heffernan
, WRAL anchor/reporter
CARY, N.C. — Students in Wake County public schools have not been on a school bus since last spring. Because of the coronavirus, riding the bus will look different for many when they return to school on Monday. A first wave of students in pre-kindergarten through third grade will be on the bus and in the classroom as Wake County moves to a hybrid of in-person and remote learning.

At the bus stop, students will be asked to stand six feet apart. They will board one-by-one, allowing each other ample space, and will be required to wear a mask. Bus drivers will have them on hand for those who forget.

Buses will operate at only one-third capacity, and students will be limited to one student per seat unless they are siblings.

Driver Amber Tookes said she'll be nervous to get back behind the wheel of a Wake County school bus. She worries about "little children coming on the bus not keeping their face masks on, possibly coming on the bus sick," she said.
To alleviate those fears, the district will require parents to sign a form agreeing to new school bus safety protocols and asserting that they won't let a child ride the bus if they have symptoms of coronavirus, have been exposed to it or are running a fever. Without the form, children will not be allowed to ride the bus.

Once in motion, though, bus drivers will not be watching students to make sure masks stay on, according to Stephen Sposato, director of transportation operations in Wake County.

"Our primary focus when that bus is in operation is to pay attention to the road. All of the other practices regarding school transportation still apply," he said. "We want to make sure that our kids our safe."

Bus drivers will disinfect buses at the end of the day.

Sposato said that, despite any pandemic hesitations, the district expects to have a full complement of drivers to get students to school and back home safely.

Katherine Joyce, executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators, praised the steps Wake County is taking.

“We commend the efforts of North Carolina’s public school transportation leaders to ensure safe operations of buses and the important role that plays in educating K-12 students," she said. “As we continue in these challenging times of operating schools during this COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring safe student transportation is a top priority not only for all school transportation employees, but also for principals and superintendents across the state.”