NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — Riding the school bus will soon be a lot different. New York State has released school bus guidelines, like mandating masks and one child per seat.
“The kids are going to be on the road longer. The buses are going to be on the road longer, and there's going to be less drivers. It's really going to complicate our ability to get the kids to school on time, but we will get them there safely,” said Michael Dowd, President of Niagara Falls Coach Lines.
It’s going to cost a good chunk of change, at a time schools are facing funding cuts.
“We're going to most likely be running more buses than we have in the past, more bus runs depending on the instruction schedules. It's going to cost more money than it has in the past. We have to hope our state government and federal government recognize that and provide some relief to school districts,” said Dave Christopher, Executive Director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation.
“The exorbitant cost to do so... our budget is just not built to do that,” said Mark Laurrie, Superintendent of Niagara Falls City Schools.
The Niagara Falls City School District has put some plans in place to help offset that cost.
“We're starting in a hybrid 50% return. A lot of that was driven by the fact that we bus 500 students and can only bus safely with social distancing half of a bus,” Laurrie said.
Another issue is having enough people to drive the buses.
“We've got already a chronic bus driver shortage. That's not going to improve. It's going to get worse. We've heard from some of our older drivers that they're reluctant to come back,” Dowd said.
But at the end of the day, one central focus remains.
“We always do our best to keep the kids safe. This is just a new challenge,” said Dowd.