Extra vehicles on standby for school bus routes from March 8
- Credit: RACHEL EDGE
Extra vehicles will run on Suffolk's school bus routes if needed next week, as pupils return to school from the third Covid-19 lockdown.
Suffolk County Council provides subsidised transport for around 12,000 pupils in the county.
It said that planning had been carried out to ensure that all pupils eligible for that funded transport will have a place.
Students are advised to wear facemasks on buses to and from school, while cleaning routines by bus operators have already been part of Covid-secure measures.
Education chiefs at the authority said arrangements will be similar to those in place when pupils returned in September last year.
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Cabinet member for education, Mary Evans, said: "It will be as we were in September.
"We have the government funding still for those backup buses - we had a bunch of mini buses and extra buses on standby [last year], and we used them.
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"The first couple of weeks there might well be parents still driving their children to school, there are still a lot of people on furlough.
"Even those who are back in their workplace work, a lot of companies are saying you can still work from home so many days a week.
"We don't think we will have the full take up we normally have."
Some schools, such as Stowmarket High and Debenham High, have opted to stagger the return of pupils over the week, which may also impact on passenger numbers.
A clearer indication of numbers opting to go on school buses is expected by the end of the first week back.
Adrian Orr, assistant director of education and learning, said: "We make it as safe as we possibly can.
"We are making sure we have provision in place so that every child that needs a Suffolk funded transport travel arrangement in place gets one."
Social distancing is not required on school buses, according to the council, and pupils who are unwell should not travel to school.
Work has also been taking place with one of the county's school bus providers based in Diss, where surge testing has been carried out amid fears the South Africa variant has been reported.
The council said measures were in place for those routes.
Mrs Evans said: "They have worked incredibly hard to second-guess the worst case scenario, and having set up if the worst case scenario happened - fingers crossed it hasn't yet - they have got everything to send out to schools and to councillors, in case several buses won't run because drivers have tested positive.
"It hasn't happened, but we know what we were going to do and to date we haven't had to do it.
"There is an underlying plan put in place if something did happen."
Visit the website here for full information and guidance on school transport during the pandemic.