School bus COVID-19 protocols a concern for some Austin ISD employees

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – With the return of in-person learning this week, some Austin Independent School District employees want to see improved COVID-19 screening protocols. They’re not just worried about the spread of the virus in classrooms—they’re also concerned about the spread on school buses.

Leslie Pearlman is a second grade teacher who says she became concerned after multiple students told her they weren’t being screened using the school district’s phone app before getting on the school bus.

“These are bused students coming in with none of that information done,” said Pearlman. “We don’t know whether they’ve been exposed to someone at home who has COVID-19,”

AISD has a screening app that students and teachers are required to use every day to get on campus or inside district buildings. It asks questions about COVID-19 symptoms or potential exposures.

Students are required to have their temperature taken before getting on a school bus. The district’s “Open for Learning” handbook does not explicitly address screening with the app at bus stops. It does encourage parents and guardians to accompany their children to the bus stop, in the case of a failed temperature screening.

Pearlman says bus stop screenings currently do not go far enough, adding that she’s spoken to other teachers who have also raised the issue.

We asked AISD if it was considering enhanced school bus screening protocols. In an email, a spokesperson referred us to the district website.

The concerns come after Austin’s top doctor warned this week against using school buses because of the recent surge in cases.

“We’ve definitely seen clusters that are associated with shared transportation, so shared carpools and buses may be another issue,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Medical Director at Austin Public Health.

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