Dorset Council is working hard on planning how to get nearly 8000 pupils back to school when term starts in September.
The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is making an already complex situation more difficult. Routes change from year to year to ensure that all children, who are entitled to free school transport, can get there safely. These routes often mix children from different schools.
This year, in order to limit the interaction between pupils at different schools, each closed school service will only pick up children for one school, instead of several.
There will be no social distancing on closed school routes although we are advising operators introduce a range of measures to improve safety on the bus, such as good ventilation, improved cleaning regimes, no face to face seating and orderly pick up and drop off regimes.
Face coverings for children age 11 and above are highly recommended but will not be compulsory. We will also be recommending that pupils sit in the same seat each day, wherever possible. More information about these will be given to parents and schools.
Children using public transport to get to school will be subject to social distancing on transport and must wear a face covering, unless they are under 11 or medically exempt from doing so.
In preparation for these arrangements the council have already asked parents whether their children will be using school transport or if they will transport them themselves, to inform the organisation of the routes.
Parents will be advised that if their child has:
• A high temperature
• A new continuous cough
• A loss or change to, their sense of smell or taste
They should not travel to school and seek medical advice.
Some children who pay for their transport (e.g. age 16 and above), will have to wait until seats have been allocated to those who are entitled first.
There is also encouragement, for those who can, to walk, cycle or scoot to school. The council has bid for £700,000 from The Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund Tranche 2 to help people to choose to use bikes or walking for daily journeys. They will gain the benefits of being more physically active and if short car trips can be avoided, it will reduce pollution and congestion.
Parents should park considerately when they drop-off and pick up. If possible, park away from the school gate and walk the last few hundred metres, to avoid congestion and avoid creating dangerous conditions for pedestrians.
School transport routes and timetables can be found at www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/school-transport