School bus riders from different boards considered cohort: STEO

(Newswatch Group/File)

PRESCOTT – The head of Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO) says students who ride the school bus together from different boards are considered a cohort and the practice is within public health guidelines.

Janet Murray addressed the concern raised by some parents in a reply to an open letter from Rochelle Johnston, a parent of a first-grader at Rothwell-Osnabruck Elementary School. Johnston says she was “shocked” to learn children from the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario and the Upper Canada District School Board were sharing the same bus, especially with the Delta variant driven fourth wave of COVID-19 and students under 12 not being able to be vaccinated.

Murray assured her the busing is following guidance from the local health units.

“Their (health units) main concern is contact tracing within the bus itself and they have not advised against transporting students together from different schools or boards, provided it is possible to identify persons who may have been in proximity with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19,” Murray writes.

The buses have various safety measures in place, including assigned seating, mandatory masking for grades 1-12, enhanced cleaning and leaving the spot empty next to the school bus driver.

Murray adds that “many families” have opted out of using the school bus, choosing instead to drive kids to school themselves or having their kids bike or walk to school. That assertion is based on school board surveys.

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