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Local school districts figuring out transportation procedures for the upcoming school year

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With school fast approaching, districts are preparing to welcome students back in a safe manner.

While each district is different, most are requiring kids to wear masks on the bus. Schools are now refining how busing will work.

Getting young kids to follow rules can be a challenge regardless of location-- on a bus or in class. But districts are looking to find the easiest adjustments to provide a sense of normalcy while limiting the chance of exposure.

Getting kids to and from school on time and safely, bus drivers already have a lot on their plate. Now they’ll have even more.

"The bus drivers will then coach the students, 'this is your seat, please sit here, this is a different time,'" said South Bend Schools Assistant Superintendent Renee Sanchez.

Both Bremen and South Bend schools are mandating masks and assigned seats on their buses, but how they organize seating is a bit different.

Bremen routes will run as normal and try spacing seating by age.

"There are varying levels on all the buses," said Bremen Superintendent Jim White. "So there is potential for cross spread, but we're also going to do our best to try and keep the students in the same seats to do contract tracing that way."

South Bend will work its way up.

"We will make sure we load up our buses from the back to the front so there’s as little interaction as possible," said Sanchez.

Grade levels may mix with these plans but both will look to keep families together to minimize exposure.

Bremen Superintendent Jim White says the big difference in their decision is that the schools are all in one big building.

"If we had a standalone elementary or standalone middle school etc. etc. that would make far more sense for us to break them down on the bus," said White.

Leaders from both schools understand parents might not want to send their kid on a bus if it requires a mask. South Bend is sending letters out this week to parents asking about their plans.

"That way we can prepare for the routes knowing whether or not students are riding on the buses," said Sanchez.

Bremen has already heard from many parents planning to drive their kids themselves.

"They’ll be dropping them off at school, but that’s OK because it will lower the number of bodies on that bus."

Both school systems aim to educate families on kids wearing masks, while telling children why the new rules are so important.

"I don’t want us to be the mask police, I don’t want this to be a point of constant conflict. What I really hope is people would just comply," said White.

Finding bus drivers has been a struggle for both schools in recent years. Knowing many are older, White would understand if some don’t feel comfortable around kids.

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At this point, neither school has lost any drivers, and they will be providing masks and other gear to protect them.

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