On the rare occasion that Houston temperatures drop to freezing, it’s not just people who may struggle to get going in the morning. HISD schools and buses need extra time to warm up, too.
But for every cozy classroom or bus ride, there is a team that has braved the weather in the dark and early morning hours to make learning environments comfy and safe for students’ arrival.
They are the cold-start crews – the ones who are called in when temperatures drop to 32 degrees and below.
When HISD closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic,
bus driver Althea McWhorter never got the chance to say goodbye to the seniors
who rode her bus every day for four years.
For someone who thoroughly enjoys getting to know her passengers as she drives them to and from school each day, losing the chance to say goodbye was not easy. But she’s hoping this year will be different.
Armed with new bus safety measures and a duffel bag of
disinfecting supplies, McWhorter was ready to welcome a new group of students
returning this month for in-person instruction.
Transportation Services is
finalizing bus routes for eligible riders who have indicated to the
district they plan to return for in-person learning and preparing to notify
parents of assigned routes next week.
bus service will be limited when in-person instruction resumes on Oct. 19 due
to physical distancing and its impact on bus capacity. Under the
Communicable Disease Plan, buses will run at half capacity with just 26
accommodate the reduced capacity, bus service will be limited to special
education, homeless, elementary, and specialty school students. Service also
may be provided for some students in middle school as well as those who live
along high-risk routes if resources are available.
Though most HISD students are starting school virtually,
Transportation Services was back on the road on Sept. 8, providing student
shuttle service to and from 36 digital learning centers across the district.
Strategically located across the district, digital learning
centers provide students without technology access a place to complete their
daily virtual lessons during the district’s online-only first six weeks of
Students who have been previously identified as needing
technology will be assigned to a select center, based on the location of their
home school. Once assigned, the home school will provide parents with their
student’s bus stop and pick-up and drop-off times.
Six curbside summer meals sites and all Fresh Bus produce delivery stops have been canceled for Thursday, June 4, following a confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus.
The six summer meals sites closed on Thursday include Bastian,
Foster, Shearn, Thompson, and Whidby, and R. P. Harris elementary schools. All
other scheduled summer meals sites will remain open.
The temporary closure will allow for deep cleaning and
sanitization of affected schools and district facilities. Fresh Bus produce
delivery and the curbside summer meals site at R. P. Harris Elementary School are
expected to resume normal operations on Monday, June 8. The remaining five
school sites are expected to reopen Thursday, June 18.
Next week school buses will roll once again, but for a
special reason — they will be delivering fresh produce to students at 68 select
elementary campuses as a part of a new produce delivery program.
Fresh Bus school buses will provide weekly deliveries of
fresh fruits and vegetables to several locations in each school community,
making fresh produce directly available to more than 36,000 students.
The Houston Independent School District is augmenting its cleaning and sanitization efforts as a precautionary measure as officials continue to monitor the potential impact of COVID-19.
HISD has no confirmed cases of COVID-19. However, acting out of an abundance of caution, the district issued a 14-day self-quarantine for several individuals, all of whom recently returned from a country on the CDC travel warning list or are closely related to someone who did.
Impacted schools are being deep cleaned and sanitized as a precautionary measure. This includes fogging all rooms with CDC-recommended disinfectant and cleaning all air ducts, a common practice for potential cases of airborne viruses.
Transportation Services will stop making changes to existing routes at the end of March to allow the department to begin planning for the 2020-2021 school year.
Parents will no longer be able to request changes to existing routes starting Friday, March 27. Students with new transportation requests submitted after the cutoff date will be assigned to existing routes and stops.
“Planning for the next year is an essential part of ensuring we fulfill our mission,” General Manager John Wilcots IV said. “This deadline will allow us to shift our focus to scheduling and route planning for the coming 2020-2021 school year.”
Transportation Services is continuing to work with SafeStop to troubleshoot technical glitches resulting from incorrect application configurations.
For parents viewing open routes in SafeStop, it may have appeared as though the bus was stationary at the bus terminal.
To help address this and other issues, parents are encouraged to make sure they download all SafeStop software updates to ensure they have access to the latest data.
Transportation Services is continuing efforts to recruit new bus drivers, with monthly job fairs scheduled to begin next month.
The district has been working to address a bus driver shortage by adding more drivers to its roster. The job fairs will continue through July.