School districts are undertaking the most important task of all, with an abbreviated time frame, and a fast-approaching deadline: keeping students safe.
And that responsibility begins before students even step foot in a classroom.
"A couple of things that are a probable necessity are going to be masks for the drivers and the matrons and the children, of course," says New York School Bus Contractors Association President Corey Muirhead. "Hand sanitizer stations or bottles on each vehicle....disinfection spray on each vehicle to go over highly topical areas such as seat backs, guard rails, hand rails, seatbelts."
NYSBCA provides guidance and insight to member contractors, including Birnie Bus, which transports Utica School District students. President Muirhead says detailed guidance from the state has been sparse. But what he has an endless supply of, are questions.
"If you're wearing masks, do you still need to be six feet apart? That's a big question and clarity that we need," said Muirhead. "We're not exactly sure if we need to socially distance on a school bus." Muirhead adds that social distancing on a school bus might be difficult, if not impossible, to execute.
"Normal day you see 50 children ride this bus, how do you conform to social distancing and cut that vehicle down to 11 kids? It's impossible. It's economically and logistically impossible."
The Utica City School District is trying plan, with Birnie Bus. They've met twice, but more meetings are needed.
"They have canceled a couple of meetings on us but we are trying to reschedule right now because we're giving them information on what our needs are so they can start routing the buses," says Utica School Superintendent Bruce Karam.
Utica plans to submit their reopening plan to the school board on Tuesday, for their approval. All of the planning could be for nothing. The plans are due to the state by July 31, and the governor is going to let districts know if they can bring kids back, and to what extent, the first week of August.
Karam says, "We're not leaving any stone unturned. We're gonna do everything we possibly can to make this opening of school very safe for all of our students and teachers."