SuperTrans adds safety regulations


Liliana Greyf, Staff Writer

For the safety of the hundreds of students who take school-provided transportation every day, Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly, Director of Transportation Robert Forcelli, and SuperTrans Bus Company Owner Nick Vallone have created new guidelines that enforce limited contact, mask-wearing, and daily sanitization of buses, Forcelli said. 

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not require social distancing on transportation, noting it only as a best practice, Kelly still decided to make the switch, he said. Each student will have their own seat with the exception of siblings, who will sit together to maximize space, according to the Horace Mann School Plan to Reopen in the Fall. 

As a result, a school bus that would seat 44 students in a normal year now only seats 22, Forcelli said. Because of this, the school is hiring extra buses at no extra cost to the parents.

The number of large buses that will be used this year has increased from 18 to 28, Forcelli said. The final number of buses to be used is uncertain, but Forcelli estimates that the smaller buses and vans will increase by around five each. The school’s plan requires every student to wear a mask at all times on the bus. 

To minimize unnecessary contact between students, each individual will be allowed on only one bus route, Forcelli said. “The bus drivers will be given a list of students on their bus, and that is it,” he said. “You get on one bus in the morning, and you go home on the same bus.” 

“The inability to simply hop on any bus for a ride home, even to a friend’s house or apartment will be the biggest inconvenience of them all,” Kelly said. “But I think it’s worth it and a small price to pay given our need to reduce the number of students on each bus, let alone our need for contact tracing.”

To further minimize the possibility of cross-contamination between different groups, buses will no longer be shared by the three hill schools, Vallone said. 

Additionally, SuperTrans is newly committed to cleaning the vehicles used for transportation once every day, Vallone said. “After each school day, the buses will be disinfected,” Forcelli said. “This is not something that we have ever had to do.” 

Bus drivers will be instructed to open windows and overhead exits during routes to ventilate the vehicles, weather permitting, Vallone said.

Currently, around 700 students are signed up to take the bus — a number that is slightly lower than that of last year, Forcelli said. However, he believes that more parents will sign their children up throughout the year. “When people see it’s working, we are going to get a lot more people signing up,” he said.

Forcelli urged families to sign their children up for the bus over the summer; although they will likely be able to sign up in the fall, their bus may not be able to stop conveniently near their desired pickup location, he said.

Although it was designed to minimize the spread of the virus, this new plan may have other advantages, Vallone said. “We do expect routes to be a little bit shorter actually than in years past, because there will be less kids to pick up,” he said. “At the same time, that may be counterbalanced by the fact that there are a lot more people in New York City now driving their personal cars in order to avoid subways. So, the routes might be a little bit shorter than they have been in the past, or they could be the same amount of time due to the traffic patterns changing.”

Students like Gillian Ho (8) will contribute to this increase in vehicles on the way to school; because her family is worried about the safety of school-provided transportation, Ho will be driven to and from school by her parents.

Alexei Le (11) has taken the opposite approach, reconsidering the safety of public transportation. This year, Le will be taking the school bus for his first time since middle school. “[My parents] feel comfortable with the school guidelines,” he said. “They would rather have me social distance on a bus than on the subway.”

“We are in uncharted waters, but we are trying our hardest [to keep students safe],” Forcelli said. 

Like Le, science teacher Camille Nivison is also switching from her usual routine of public transportation this school year, she said. She feels safer staying within the school’s community on her commute. The bus services remain free for teachers this year, Nivison said, so the switch was sensible for her. 

This switch still causes some inconveniences, Nivison said. “I teach A period, so I would really like to get to school earlier than just on time,” she said. “Still, this is a great opportunity, and we will just have to see how it goes.”