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School bus chaos looming

July 27th, 2020 7:05 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

The Department has said today that its school buses will operate 'as normal' but has asked children to sanitise their hands and wear facemasks

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PARENTS are facing into a nightmare scenario this September due to the uncertainty over how school buses will operate  with social distancing guidelines.

With the 2m rule still expected to be in place, capacity on most school buses will be reduced, meaning that a 52-seater bus could only accommodate 16 children.

Sen Tim Lombard has called on the Department of Education to urgently clarify the status of the scheme. ‘In the Covid-19 scenario, the majority of children who have applied for school transport will not get a place because there are not enough buses in the country,’ he said.

‘We need to find out how the Department of Transport is planning to meet the social distancing requirements, and the ever-increasing demand for seats on school buses.’

He highlighted the situation last year in Ballineen and Enniskeane – before social distancing –  where many students were denied places on school buses.

‘The problem is only going to get bigger, so sticking our heads in the sand on this issue is not an option.’

Nora Bradfield from Ballineen, whose son has a concessionary bus ticket – which he only got in February – fears that he, along with other similar bus ticket holders, would be among the first to lose his seat if space on buses is being reduced.

‘We just don’t know what will happen or what our fight will be,’ Nora said.

Meanwhile, Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan was told at a recent Covid committee on school transport that service providers have said that there aren’t enough buses to cater for this extra demand.

‘We need to really plan for this and source buses immediately if they are needed so we don’t have the situation like we had in Enniskeane and Ballineen whereby 18 students were left without seats,’ he said.

A Department of Education spokesperson said that that they are ‘engaging intensively’ with Bus Éireann, the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority on the logistical considerations that arise from the re-opening of schools.

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