Vicki Wingfield, director of transportation for Visalia

Unified School District in California’s San Joaquin Valley, said her operations have gone beyond tracking and trac- ing by thinking ahead with investments in health and safety. The district includes ways to better sanitize buses and improve connectivity, to make the commute more productive for students who could use the time on the bus for academic purposes. “We have also purchased foggers for each bus, which

will allow our drivers to disinfect between each group of students,” she said. “We are also looking into purchasing Wi-Fi [routers] for each of our school buses to assist our students with connectivity issues as well as to enable them to use their tablets during their commute.” Wingfield explained the pandemic was a tipping point

to procure the tracking system. Before COVID-19, the budget didn’t allow for it. But once the pandemic took hold, CARES Act funds made the investment possible. “We have considered purchas- ing student tracking software for a couple of years, but due to budget constraints we were not able to get it approved through our pur- chasing department,” she added. “Due to the pandemic and contact tracing requirements, the dis- trict was willing to purchase the system using CARES Act funds. We have prioritized purchases to reflect the changing needs of the district due to the pandemic. Student and driver safety are our top priorities.” She relayd that the GPS and

Early On [infant and toddler development] programs.” The district also made numerous other purchases

without help from the CARES Act. Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap required many supplies and equip- ment to create a safe environment. It states that student transporters must clean and disinfect each bus before and after each run as well as provide hand sanitizer on each bus. West Shore purchased more hand sanitizer than it has in the past and added two handheld electro- static spayers, shop vacs to replace sweeping, and face masks for students and staff. “We wanted to make sure that if they did not have [a mask], and they could medically wear one, that one would be provided to them,” she shared. “We have pur- chased a lot more cleaning and disinfecting supplies than in previous years. Although the expectation has always been for our drivers to maintain a clean bus, the standards for what is clean have changed.” Things the service district ordi-

81% Operations that

have purchased new equipment to address a COVID-19 need.

(Out of 199 responses to a recent STN reader survey.)

student tracking software was partially purchased with a grant from the National Association for Pupil Transportation. The CARES Act funded other investments, including the foggers. Meanwhile, Katrina Morris, the transportation direc-

tor for West Shore Educational Service District (ESD) in northwestern Michigan, noted that COVID-19 invest- ments don’t always pan out. “When we started to discuss the reopening of schools,

we purchased thermometers to take the temperature of the students as they entered the school bus,” said Morris, who oversees special education transportation as well as general education for nine school districts across three countes. “As time went on, we decided this was not going to give us an accurate reading with the changing temperatures in northern Michigan. [Instead] We were able to utilize the thermometers in the classrooms and

narily purchased were ordered in greater volumes for this school year. “On an individual level, we have placed bigger orders of cleaners, disinfectants, gloves, paper towels, etc., to ensure that our drivers have what they need to follow the Return to School Roadmap,” Morris added. “We created regional reopening work groups to tackle what the needs of the districts were and guidelines to follow to safely reopen our schools. We also worked with our emergency man- ager to place bigger orders of face masks and face shields to ensure our districts had what would be

needed to safely reopen.” She said that the cleaning and disinfecting items her team purchased will continue to be used moving forward. They aren’t concerned about shelf life because they’re quickly consuming the products. Kris Hafezizadeh, the executive director of transporta-

tion for the Austin Independent School District in Texas, said the CARES Act is expected to reimburse much of what has already been spent on equipment and supplies. “We will continue to purchase what is needed to keep our students and team members safe,” said Hafezizadeh. “We certainly hope we can get reimbursed for them. We have purchased all needed PPE, including disinfection sprayers and other cleaning supplies, masks, gloves, face shields, etc. We will keep some of the equipment. Hope- fully, we do not have to face another situation like this.” 35

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