- File photo courtesy Student Transportation Inc.

File photo courtesy Student Transportation Inc.

As 2021 progresses, we have our fingers crossed that most of our school districts will continue to return to in-person learning because a COVID-19 vaccine is now being deployed in the U.S. Hopefully the vaccine will live up to our high expectations of it, and its existence can provide a level of comfort for parents, school officials, and employees. Our wonderful bus drivers need to feel confident in a return to their role as the first person a child sees every morning.

My New Year’s wish is a return to normal, and not a “new” normal. Various studies have addressed the current environment of the virtual learning platform, and most, if not all, agree: the in-person learning model is critical for students, especially those in the K-6 range.

We have all heard the saying that implores one to get back up on the horse that bucked you. What this implies is that whenever you encounter difficulty, it’s easy to walk away and perhaps never try that endeavor again.

Because the Coronavirus has impacted so much in our lives, it may be difficult to think about hopping back on that horse. Think about it: what used to be a simple trip to the grocery store has become more challenging during the pandemic. Things that many of us look forward to have been curtailed or eliminated: the day trip to the beach, vacations at destination points, concerts, sporting events, and trips to museums.

Consequently, we have all begun to dive into distractions that can help us through these difficult times. Many have taken up bicycling, walking, painting, or even tackled long overdue house projects. Maybe, as a society, we can continue those activities even after we have faced down the struggle with COVID-19.

And I believe the yellow bus will lead the way to the renaissance that we so desperately need.

John Benish Jr. is the president of the National School Transportation Association. - Photo courtesy National School Transportation Association

John Benish Jr. is the president of the National School Transportation Association.

Photo courtesy National School Transportation Association

As tough as these times have been for us, we also must focus our attention on others. The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) applauds all our heroic frontline medical staff members from all over the country, who have continually answered the call for the last 10 months. As you may know, a recent NSTA objective has been to get our transportation staffs on the 1b priority list to receive the vaccine. I am sure we can agree our staffs are most deserving to receive the vaccine early in this process. The NSTA has been working hard to get school bus drivers acknowledged as essential personnel, but only after our health care providers. We testified before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November articulating this position.

For those transportation professionals operating under in-person learning situations, whether total or hybrid, we now know that the interior environment of a school bus can remain safe and sanitary. It’s another hurdle that we successfully jumped, and we have shown the remaining districts that we can certainly jump back on that proverbial horse when called upon.

Let’s continue to acknowledge that the yellow bus is the safest, greenest, and most efficient way to and from school each day, and each bus takes 36 automobiles off the road. This has not changed; in fact, our strengths have been amplified. Procedures and protocols are now in place to ensure a safe ride to school for nearly 26 million students each day. Let’s not lose sight of this fact as the pandemic continues to impact our lives. And for any student transportation professional out there who needs help jumping back into the saddle, please remember: with NSTA, you never travel alone.

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