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Transporting precious cargo

Schools see decline in bus riders

Now that schools are open, districts have had to adjust to new rules, schedules and finding ways to socially distance their sometimes hyperactive young charges while transporting them to and from buildings.

Youngstown, at least for the first nine weeks, eliminated busing issues because the district chose to go fully online.

But the city district still transports 542 students to other, nonpublic schools that have children living within the Youngstown City School District. The number of students to and from these schools may change, however, based on their enrollments.

Other area districts are operating blended or hybrid systems in which half of their students attend school in person two days per week and a second group attends school on alternate days.

The alternative schedules crafted during this COVID-19 pandemic have helped to reduce the number of students on the buses at any one time.

“We already were looking at ways to make our routes more efficient and cost effective,” Ryan Dunn, director of transportation for the Boardman Local School District said. “We were looking at combining junior high and high school routes. This (the virus) has sped up that process.”

Dunn said the district has about 4,000 students. The district has about 40 percent fewer students riding the district’s buses than prior to the pandemic, he said.

About a third of the district’s students are taking classes on a remote basis only. Another 20 percent are getting rides to and from their schools.

“Even when we get through this period, I would like to keep the hand sanitizers on the buses,” Dunn said. “We may not have to do as much cleaning of the buses between routes.”

Boardman has 56 routes that its drivers travel.

The 1,800 students in the West Branch Schools in Mahoning County are attending in-building classes five days per week. Approximately 300 of the district’s students have chosen remote learning.

“Except for having fewer students on the buses and requiring social distancing and the wearing of masks, it has been about the same,” Micki Egli, acting superintendent, said.

The district has 18 buses and only lost one driver to retirement.

“We, like other districts, are looking for substitute drivers,” she said.

According to the Mahoning County Educational Service Center website, there are openings for bus drivers at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, as well as drivers and substitute drivers in both Boardman and Austintown.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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