PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Port Arthur Independent School District is preparing for more students to use district-provided transportation.
Last PAISD school year, there was a 56 percent decrease in students riding busses due to online learning and COVID-19 concerns. School drop off lanes filled up, while bus seats were left empty.
“Oh, our ridership was way down absolutely,” Corey Metts, PAISD director of transportation, said. “I think a lot of parents were dropping their kids off, trying to keep them separated. Kids were doing online learning."
Now, with the state mandating face-to-face instructions, Metts expects those numbers to increase as the district gets back a sense of normalcy this year.
“If you are fearful of the kids riding the bus, each school has a drop off lane,” he siad. “You can drop them off and put a mask on them. The new CDC guidelines are out. Put a mask on them, and we will have hand sanitizer on the bus.”
When it comes to COVID-19 precautions, students are encouraged to wear masks, which the bus drivers will provide if needed, and to use hand sanitizer stations as they board on and off the buses.
Both students and drivers will have some new perks to look forward to during their ride, Metts said. Over the summer, the buses got Wi-Fi upgrades, air conditioning upgrades and GPS navigations for drivers.
"Turn by turn directions on the tablets and Wi-Fi for the kids has attracted new drivers,” he said.
Metts appreciates the support of the district that has made the bus upgrades possible and hopes that with every student will be able to take advantage of having Wi-Fi and a tablet or laptop provided by the district, he said.
Ten new drivers will help PAISD staff its 32 bus routes. The district will finalize and post the routes soon.
With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, mixed with the spread of the Delta variant, Southeast Texans are worried about sending their children back.
“Its scary,” Beatrice Lewis, Port Arthur resident, said “But my daughter said if something's going on, she's not going to send her children. She's just going to pull them, and they can go virtual.”
Virtual school might be an option at some point, but as of now, it is not. So, prevention will be key.
School busses in Port Arthur are stocked with hand sanitizer, and masks. The district will encourage all students to wear them when riding.
“Try your best to stay your distance,” Lewis said.
With school less than two weeks away, PAISD is opting to do a virtual convocation to get parents and students ready for the year.