As students begin returning to school for in-person instruction, First Student has introduced Start Safe, a comprehensive program that outlines safety and operating procedures to prevent and reduce transmission of COVID-19.
“While we look forward to students returning to the classroom, we know we must do things differently this year to provide a safe start and finish to each school day,” First Student President Paul G. Osland said in a news release from the school bus company. “As the largest student transportation company in North America, it’s our responsibility to develop industry-leading standards that prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of our employees and passengers. With Start Safe, we deliver on this promise while helping our district partners, parents, and students feel comfortable and confident about the safety of school buses during the pandemic.”
The school bus company formed a Start Safe task force, which is comprised of more than 20 senior-level, cross-functional subject matter experts, and will drive its approach to combating COVID-19. It then collaborated with government agencies, health care organizations, university research teams, and school bus manufacturers to test and share information and determine First Student’s approach. Those insights informed First Student’s Start Safe measures on school buses and at the company’s nearly 500 locations across North America.
First Student’s approach includes:
• Face coverings: First Student is providing employees with face coverings and requires that they are worn at First Student locations and on the bus. Consistent with CDC guidelines, if a face covering obstructs or impairs the drivers’ vision, the driver is permitted to remove the face covering while operating the vehicle safely.
• Employee training and protocols: In addition to addressing face coverings, First Student’s new Start Safe employee training includes new safety protocols such as identifying COVID-19 symptoms, reducing in-person contact between co-workers and social distancing in high-traffic areas.
• Disinfected and protected school buses: First Student is working to make the school bus as clean as possible. It offers two bus disinfectant options for district partners: a daily disinfectant and an antimicrobial surface protectant that is designed to provide long-lasting antimicrobial protection against a range of viruses, bacteria, and pathogens.
• Social distancing solutions: First Student is partnering with school districts to establish specific social distancing solutions, including limiting the number of students transported per route, assigning seats, and developing new loading and unloading procedures.
In addition, First Student has available interior seat stickers and step signage to convey social distancing requirements in a student-friendly way.
The school bus company is working with each of its nearly 1,100 school district partners to create customized transportation plans based on direction provided by states, provinces, or cities.
To further support school districts and their communications about school bus safety, First Student created the Start Safe webpage, which includes information about Start Safe, videos, sample social media posts, and Zoom backgrounds with Safety Dog, First Student’s safety mascot.
The school bus company also created a parent and student page with materials such as tip sheets, videos, coloring/activity sheets, posters, and a Safety Dog safety pledge.