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COVID-19: How Technology is Helping Students Return to School Safely

Whether you are a parent, bus driver, or student transportation director, the thought of returning to school amid a global pandemic can create feelings of anxiety. After months of learning online, buses in a number of school districts are now returning to roads as schools begin in-person classes.

Whilst basic safety protocols like wearing masks, separating students, and keeping windows open can help to reduce risks, innovations in technology can enable student transporters to act proactively to improve safety.

By harnessing the power of technology, we have helped school districts to upgrade their fleets while buses have been off roads to ensure that children and drivers can board the yellow bus again with minimal risk.

Read on to discover some of the ways that technology is creating a safer back to school for students and drivers in 2021.

Solution 1: Thermal screening

For many, the number one concern about returning to school is the risk of contracting COVID-19. This is especially concerning for bus drivers, who often fall into high-risk categories with an average age of 60+.

Technology can help to mitigate this by preventing children with symptoms from getting on the bus. BusPatrol is developing thermal cameras to determine whether a child has symptoms of a fever within just half a second. These can be placed above the stairwell to screen children one by one as they board the bus. School districts can automate a workflow to decide whether that child should be allowed on.

By using advanced technology, school districts can significantly enhance driver and passenger safety, without needing to invest significant time or money.

Solution 2: Track and trace

In addition to monitoring temperatures, school districts can implement track and trace technology on the bus. It is now more important than ever to know when and where students get on and off and tracking ridership has become mandatory in several states.

By equipping the school bus with track and trace technology, it can function as a high-tech contact tracing vehicle to alert school districts if a passenger has tested positive for COVID-19. Through track and trace technology, the school can then identify who they have been in contact with throughout the school day to prevent further exposure.

BusPatrol partners with industry leaders including Zonar and Samsung to provide school districts with advanced track and trace technology at zero cost. School districts can use BusPatrol cloud-connected internal cameras, Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3, Zonar Z Pass, and Zonar Verify to track students as they get on and off the bus.

  • BusPatrol cloud-connected internal cameras: respond to incidents that happen onboard the bus
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3: A rugged tablet that can be used by bus drivers to sign students in as they board
  • Zonar Z Pass: A touchless student ridership visibility tool that allows students to scan a card as they get on and off the bus
  • Zonar Verify: Allows drivers to view student information including name, bus route and photo ID

All of these tools are available to school districts that partner with BusPatrol at zero cost.

Why is it important to track student ridership right now?

Monitor the number of students on the school bus

According to guidelines from CDC, school bus operators should distance students by having one student per seat or row. This means that school buses have had to halve their capacity, only allowing a maximum of 25 students.

Tracking student ridership is an easy way to ensure that you are not exceeding bus capacity.

Improve communication with parents

This student tracking technology can be used with parent apps so that parents can easily check that their child is safe and on the right bus. This is particularly beneficial right now when parent concerns could be at an all-time high. These apps can also alert parents to delays or route changes.

Solution 3: Sanitization

School bus operators have introduced stricter cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in line with FTA safety protocols.

Technology can make it easier for student transporters to ensure that they are meeting these protocols. School districts that partner with BusPatrol can opt in to Zonar’s EVIR (electronic verified inspection reporting). Student transporters can use EVIR to make sure that each school bus inspection is completed, performed properly and the results are accurately captured. With EVIR, school districts are able to:

  • Comply with the FTA’s safety advisory to execute all routine cleaning and surface disinfection
  • Document which areas are sanitized, at what time, and by who
  • Monitor cleaning routines to standardize methods and maximize efficiency
  • Document the type of disinfectant used

Solution 4: Stop-arm enforcement

With buses off roads for several months, drivers might not be used to seeing school buses on the roads. Drivers are likely to be distracted, and the importance of taking extra precautions around school buses could be forgotten.

This means that school bus safety and stop-arm enforcement are more important than ever. BusPatrol safety programs focus on educating drivers and students to stay safe on the roads to reduce the number of stop-arm violations.

Contact BusPatrol to find out how you can make this year’s return to school safer



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