Mandates keep students safe on public and school transportation


Contributed by Evan Schwartz

School bus parked outside of Old Lincoln School

Waking up early in the morning is a nearly impossible task. Many students try getting just five more minutes of sleep, especially when it’s a hybrid day. However, when you live in South Brookline, you might be more inclined to hurry and get ready; after all, the bus only comes once.

While many students in the hybrid model drive or walk to school, students from South Brookline who cannot do so have resorted to other methods of transportation, such as the school bus. There are many precautions put in place to keep students safe. Sophomore Tim Lee is one of the students who take public transportation to school.

“On the days that I can’t get rides from my parents because they have to go to work early, I take the bus, which I have to get to by 7:15,” Lee said. “I live in South Brookline, and the nearest T stop is actually at the high school for me.”

Lee said taking public transportation gives him a new set of concerns, especially regarding bus arrival.

“The bus stop is an 8 minute walk away, and every bus driver is different. Sometimes they’re early, sometimes they’re late. I don’t really worry about them being late because it just means that I get to school 45 minutes early instead of 50,” Lee said. “My main concern is that I’ll miss it if it comes early.”

Sophomore Sophia Schnider lives 20-30 minutes away by car, which makes it challenging to walk to school, but Schnider said the bus has not caused problems this year.

“Last year sometimes it just wouldn’t come, but this year it hasn’t been an issue so far. It’s been on time every day.” Schnider said.

According to Brookline Public Schools (BPS) transportation coordinator Evan Schwartz, the arrival of school buses should not be an issue nowadays, and it has been going very smoothly. He said that this correlates with the number of students coming to school this year.

“Bus-ridership in total right now is down about 40 to 50%. The district has seen a drop of students going to school, in total enrollment. Timing is a lot better now. Students shouldn’t be on the bus for over 30 minutes at the most,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said that parents may be uncertain or concerned about their children being on the South Brookline buses.

“From what I’ve seen, the parents have either been, ‘I don’t want my kid on the bus’ or they’ve been, ‘I want my kid to take the bus.’ It’s more or less the parent’s preference,” Schwartz said. “From parents wanting their kids to take the bus, they are okay, they trust the process, they trust that they would be safe on the bus.”

Both Lee and Schnider said they haven’t felt unsafe during the ride, despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Brookline.

“It’s such a big bus and there’s almost no one on it. The most I’ve ever seen is 6.” Lee says.

Schwartz said based on state mandates, there are many regulations and steps taken to ensure safety, including the requirement and supply of masks.

“Students are spaced well enough on the bus, with limited contact, and the only time we’re allowing students to sit next to each other is if they’re from the same household: siblings. We are requiring hand sanitizer at the front of the bus when students are entering,” Schwartz said. “After every run, the buses are sprayed down and cleaned. Windows are being kept open during all times unless there’s a major snowstorm or it’s hailing and it’s getting inside the bus.”

Other rules in place include requiring masks, keeping seats between riders, having parents drop their kids off with masks on and having extra masks in case students forget. Schwartz said these mandates are enough to keep everyone safe.

“I don’t think there’s anything more we can do to the restrictions we have on the school buses,” Schwartz said. “As far as I know around the state, there have not been any confirmed cases. Yes, personally I think that the school transportation is safe.”