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Massachusetts officials update school bus requirements, including new capacity and social distancing



Katie Lannan

Updated school transportation guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education eases some of the rules around school buses.

The update allows districts to lift capacity limits and physical distance requirements for elementary school students on buses if all other mitigation measures — including mask-wearing and opening windows — are followed.

At the middle and high school level, capacity limitations and physical distancing requirements are lifted (again, with all other mitigation measures followed), except in districts with “high community prevalence” of COVID-19.

“For middle and high schools in districts with high community prevalence, capacity limitations and physical distancing requirements on buses are amended to allow 2 students per bus bench,” the guidance says.

A Tuesday evening email newsletter from Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said the new guidance was endorsed by the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and that the revisions “were made in close consultation with DESE’s medical advisors and are based on additional data on air exchange rates on buses as well as the continued proven effectiveness of masking.”

The goal, according to the newsletter, is “to help districts return more students to full-time, in-person school this spring.”

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