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Schools adapt to new bus safety measures

Students in South Portland will have to wear masks, they will be spaced out, and windows will be open on school buses

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — As Maine school districts figure out how to keep students safe inside the building, another challenge is how to keep them safe getting there.

"Busing was certainly a major issue," said South Portland School District Superintendent Ken Kunin.

Kunin said after conducting a recent survey, 16 percent of families with students will need transportation to school, while 21 percent of them will need it getting home.

"We'll design out bus routes with that in mind since each bus will have a certain capacity," said Kunin.

He said all students getting on the bus will receive hand sanitizer from a bus aide, will have to wear a mask, will sit spaced out, and he said windows will be open.

"We'll also have the roof hatches open to encourage ventilation," said Kunin.

Dr. Jim Foster is a pediatrician at Intermed and serves on the statewide task force assisting with guidelines for schools. He said students should be screened by their parents before stepping foot on a bus.

"That should diminish the relative risk of all those children on the school bus. There's talk about the bus driver will be masked, plexiglass between the first row of seats and the bus driver," said Dr. Foster.

The Lisbon Public School District said siblings will be able to sit together, but it is still waiting on certain guidelines from the state.

"What is the max capacity that we're allowed to have on a bus?" said Lisbon Schools Curriculum Director, Julie Colello-Nichols.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Kunin said he has been encouraging students to walk or bike to school if they can to minimize the risk.