Covid19 FAQ for Transported Students

What are my options if I feel uncomfortable sending my child on the bus during the pandemic?

If you are uncomfortable with the current and necessary school bus seating capacities, the Ministry of Education recommends active travel (cycling, scootering, walking) as a safe and healthy option that will reduce demand on busing transportation. We know active transportation boosts immunity, provides fresh air, builds lung capacity and physical health, contributes to mental health, and increases focus in the classroom. Contact us for help with route mapping and other resources.

What if I plan on driving my child(ren) to school?

If you feel you must drive, please consider the dangers of traffic congestion at the school site, and plan to park a short distance away to ensure the space is safer for all our students. Check our website’s walk zone for walking supports and our “Drive to 5” maps that show safe and legal parking options that avoid chaotic school drop offs and allow a short walk into school. If there is no map for your school, ask us for one!

Communicating your child’s busing arrangement

To keep students safe, we need you to tell us if your transportation-eligible child is expected on the bus or not.

Do I use the “Do Not Ride” form if my child is eligible for transportation, attended in-person during the 2020-2021 school year and is continuing in-person for September 2021?
  • If your child is assigned to the bus this school year, do not use the form; they will be automatically assigned for September 2021.
  • If your child opted out of transportation this school year, but now requires transportation for September 2021, please use the “Do Not Ride” form to have their busing reinstated.

For younger students, it is especially important to keep us informed of changes immediately to ensure your child is not assigned to a bus in error and inadvertently put on a bus at the end of the day if you are expecting them to walk or be picked up.

Do I use the “Do Not Ride” form if my child is eligible for transportation, enrolled in distance learning during the 2020-2021 school year, but is switching to in-person for September 2021?
  • Your child will be automatically assigned for September 2021.
  • If your child requires partial or no busing, please fill out the “Do Not Ride” form.

For younger students, it is especially important to keep us informed of changes immediately to ensure your child is not assigned to a bus in error and inadvertently put on a bus at the end of the day if you are expecting them to walk or be picked up.

How do I opt back in to busing?

If your child qualifies for busing you can opt-in again at any time using the same “Do Not Ride” form.

What if I need to make a last minute change to my child’s busing?

Changes to transportation and seating plans will be very limited from mid-August to mid-September. Blackout periods will assist STSWR, schools, and bus operators in preparing for the first day of school.

STSWR will make every effort to add/remove your child to/from the bus list as soon as possible.

What if my address changes?

All address changes must be completed at your child’s school before STSWR can add students to the bus to be picked up at that address. Call your school’s office to do so.

Vehicle Capacity for Elementary Students

What does the seating capacity look like on a big bus for elementary students?
  • regular seating
  • up to 3 students per bench from JK – grade 6
  • 2 students per bench for grades 7 & 8
  • maximum 70 students per bus
What does the seating capacity look like on a small bus for elementary students?
  • regular seating
  • maximum 20 students per bus
What does the seating capacity look like on a taxi for elementary students?
  • no students in front seat
  • maximum 3 students per route
What does the seating capacity look like on a van for elementary students?
  • no students in front seat
  • maximum 5 students per van
What does the seating capacity look like on a wheelchair bus for elementary students?
  • 2 students per bench
  • maximum 3 or 4 wheelchairs per bus

Vehicle Capacity for Secondary Students

What does the seating capacity look like on a big bus for secondary students?
  • regular seating
  • 2 students per bench
  • maximum 48 students per bus
What does the seating capacity look like on a small bus for secondary students?

• 2 students per bench
• maximum 24 students per bus

What does the seating capacity look like on a taxi for secondary students?
  • no students in front seat
  • maximum 2 student per taxi except for siblings
What does the seating capacity look like on a van for secondary students?
  • no students in front seat
  • maximum 5 students per vehicle
What does the seating capacity look like on a wheelchair bus for secondary students?
  • 2 students per bench (wheelchair = 1 bench)
  • maximum 10 students per bus

Seating Plans

How will my child know where to sit when they board the bus?

Drivers are encouraged to have a seating plan posted at the front of the bus and each bench will be numbered 1-24 to assist students with their assigned seating. Drivers will be supported by the school and STSWR in enforcing these seating plans.

  • Each student will be assigned a bench number from 1-24.
  • The seat behind the driver will remain empty whenever possible.
  • Siblings will sit together.
  • Outside of sibling seating, elementary students will be grouped by grades.
  • Kindergarten students will be seated closer to the front of the bus whenever possible.
Who is responsible for seating plans?

Seating plans will be prepared in advance in collaboration with STSWR, bus drivers, and schools; and they will be maintained by school administration in consultation with bus drivers once the school year has begun.

Why are seating plans important to follow during the pandemic?

All students will be required to follow a seating plan for both the morning and afternoon routes.

Seating plans are mandated by Public Health for Covid19 tracing purposes. In the instance that a student or bus driver tests positive, Region of Waterloo Public Health protocols will be followed.

Personal Protective Equipment for Students

Does my child need to wear a mask on the bus?

Currently it is Public Health guidance that non-medical grade face masks are required on buses for all grades since physical distancing can be challenging on buses. STSWR will be taking direction from Region of Waterloo Public Health should this requirement change.

We encourage all parents to teach their children how to wear a face mask safely.

Why does my child need to wear a mask on the bus?

Since physical distancing cannot be maintained on buses, students are required to wear non-medical grade face masks.

Will masks be provided?

While school boards may be distributing masks, you may also wish to source your own collection of masks that comfortably fit your child’s face. We encourage all parents to teach their children how to safely use a face mask to ensure they are effective. Should your child forget their mask, their bus driver will provide them with a standard-size disposable mask before boarding the bus; however, masks will not be supplied to students on a daily basis.

All requirements and actions apply to both morning and afternoon routes.

Personal Protective Equipment for Bus Drivers

Do school bus drivers need to wear a mask?

All bus drivers are required to wear a mask while transporting students. Each driver will also be given the option of wearing a face shield when students are boarding or exiting the bus as an extra precaution, but this is not required. Face shields may be kept on hand for use where drivers must assist students directly in case of an emergency.

Drivers will be provided with and have access to hand sanitizer at all times.

Cleaning of Vehicles

What is the current cleaning protocol for buses?

High touch areas (handrail and the top of seats) will be wiped down after every run with cleaning and disinfectant wipes. Once a day, buses will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Buses will be cleaned with disinfectant approved by Health Canada with a proper DIN number.

What is the current cleaning protocol for taxis?

High touch areas (seat belts, door handles (inside and out), door panel, backs of front seats, etc.) will be wiped down with disinfectant wipes.

All drivers will wear a mask.

Ventilation on Buses

Why are the windows down on my child’s bus (including the winter months)?

Under guidelines from the Ministry of Education and recommendations from SickKids, STSWR bus operators will continue to keep windows open on buses for ventilation purposes throughout all seasons of the school year, including in cold weather.

Ventilated environments (fresh air spaces) are associated with lower risk of transmission of COVID compared with poorly ventilated environments. Therefore, windows will be opened on buses, where possible, to increase ventilation. At least half of the windows on a school bus should be slightly open during most weather to help dilute the air exhaled by the occupants and allow for quicker air exchange throughout the bus. As the outside temperature drops, the inside temperature will be monitored and some windows may be closed. We expect to have at least two slightly open windows at all times for ventilation, except in heavy rain.

Students riding the bus will need to prepare for a colder indoor bus environment through cold weather months. Please ensure that your child is dressed appropriately for a bus ride with some windows down.

Home Screening

What are the current expectations for students before leaving home?

Parents are required to complete mandatory school screening protocols in place and ensure masks are on before approaching the bus stop. Any child showing symptoms at school will be isolated and not permitted to be transported home on a bus.

Children are asked to wash their hands before they leave home. Hand sanitizer will be made available to all students.

Waiting at the Bus Stop

Is physical distancing expected at bus stops?

Parents/guardians and students are expected to maintain 2 metres’ physical distance between family groupings, with all members wearing masks.

It is important that students arrive at their designated stop at least 5 minutes before the posted stop time.

Once the bus arrives, students should line up while maintaining a 2 metre physical distance between them, where possible. No more than one student should be on the stairs at a time. Students should get to their assigned seat and sit down with their bag on their lap as quickly as possible.