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How to bus thousands of students during a pandemic remains a difficult question to answer

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Many questions remain outstanding about the fall semester of school: When will classes start? How many students will be allowed in each classroom? Will face masks be required? However, the biggest problem might be getting students to school in those big, yellow buses.

There are innumerable issues as the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the decision about schools will be made in August, weeks before classes are supposed to start.

Larry Scott, a Buffalo School Board member and Ken-Ton Schools psychologist, said it is a complex issue.

"With our school choice model and so many kids being bused across the city, that is a huge challenge for us to make sure that we're keeping our kids distanced on the bus," Scott said, "and most of our families are not able to provide their own transportation on their own for their kids and to expect them to drive their kids to school is completely unrealistic."

The issue affects not only Buffalo Public Schools, but private, parochial and charter schools. Scott said all told, that is about 50,000 students and a large percentage are bused.

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore said he is getting more and more teachers telling him they've had it; it's time to pull the retirement pin and just not deal with the issues. Rumore said kids and buses are a bad mix.

"The interesting point about that is, first of all, the kids still have to be on the bus to get there and the buses are dangerous, and you have one bus driver, and how do you keep the kids from intermingling with them?" Rumore said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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