Operation School Bus - How to get children to and from school while maintaining social distancing

They are closing the road at Saltford Community School to allow pupils to catch buses in safety during Covid-19. Credit: ITV West Country

Saltash Community School was last full of children more than five months ago but on Friday 4 September they will begin their staggered return. By Wednesday 9 September, it will be back to its full complement of 1,300 pupils.

There is a wealth of arrangements due to Covid-19 restrictions. The school has had to organise classroom layout and hand sanitising facilities. Getting all the students in and out, while maintaining social distance, will be quite an operation.

Saltash Community School has introduced measures to make sure pupils are safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: ITV West Country

The road outside Saltash Community School will be closed for half an hour at the end of each school day to try to make it easier. Assistant Headteacher, Matthew Oakes says,"Because of the large number of children who use school transport, we weren't able to stagger our finish times so we've got all of those children exiting through one exit at 3pm.

"By having the road closed it means the children can go across the road and quickly disperse, supporting social distancing really. "

Seats on the buses have been taped off to enable social distancing. Credit: ITV West Country

Mr Oakes continues:

"With the road closed it means that we can line the buses up, line the coaches up, group the children in their bubbles and then, when we're ready, we can board the children in their bubbles so we maintain that social distancing that's needed."

Over 11s will have to wear face coverings on the bus, unless they're exempt, and stay in their bubble groups where possible. The buses will be sanitised before the children get on and cleaned again after each school journey. 

The school is also trying to reduce the number of cars coming in and out. Pupils are being urged to walk, scoot or cycle if they can.

Some public service buses will be reconfigured as school buses to cope with the numbers of students and social distancing needs. Credit: ITV West Country

Cornwall Council says that some peak time public bus services that would normally be available for anyone to travel on, will be reserved for students only.

Cllr Geoff Brown from Cornwall Council says, "We've dedicated a lot of the public service buses purely to school contracts so you may find the bus you normally catch to go to work or to go into the shops in the morning is actually being reconfigured as a school bus.

"If that's a problem for you please contact the transport team at County Hall and we'll put on extra buses to cover that gap."

The Government has given Cornwall Council around half a million pounds to help manage getting children back to school. At the moment it has committed £170,000 of that and insists it can react where problems arise and bring on more bus services if they're needed.