Houston ISD limits bus capacity when in-person learning resumes

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston ISD students will soon be able to see their teachers in-person as traditional instruction makes a return to schools later this month and that's bringing challenges for school buses.

According to HISD Transportation Services, bus routes are being finalized and notices about assigned routes are expected to be sent to parents next week, officials said in a statement.

There will be less space on those buses when classes resume and that's forced transportation coordinators to reduce capacity.

Service will be limited to just 26 students per school bus, the district said. Only special education, homeless, elementary and specialty school students will be allowed on board when the first run happens on Oct. 19.

Some middle school students may be able to get on the bus as well as children who live along high-risk routes if space is available.

High school students won't be eligible to ride the buses just yet, the district said.

"Our goal has always been to provide students with safe and reliable transportation to and from school," HISD Transportation Services General Manager John Wilcots IV said in a statement. "That is still our mission and we have worked hard to develop routes for as many students as we can safely accommodate."

Students will be required to wear masks, sanitize their hands and scan their bus badges when they get on board. One student per seat on the window-side will be the norm for the time being, Wilcots said. Drivers will also wear masks as well as face shields and gloves.

The bus badges help the district provide real-time data available to parents about their child's whereabouts while riding and when drop-off is expected.

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan told trustees in their Oct. 8 meeting that the district is preparing for at least 59% of its students to return to in-person instruction, with 41% of parents opting to continue virtual learning.

In other district news, HISD leaders approved $41 million dollars to help buy personal protective equipment for schools. The money will also to toward enhanced cleaning services and buying computers and internet hotspots.

Special education will also receive $17 million in funds.

The district was cited in a TEA investigation Sept. 29 for shortcomings in its handling of special education. The agency recommends that the state appoint an official to oversee improvements.

The board also approved a slightly lower tax rate, $1.1331 per $100 valuation, for fiscal year 2020-21.

The HISD board of trustees next meets Oct. 12 for a workshop session. It will also hold a community input meeting on district goals Oct. 15.

This story includes extensive reporting from our ABC13 partners at Community Impact Newspapers.
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