Potomac’s Bus Fleet gets on board with the Orange and Yellow Plans

Ethan Norton, Executive Editor

Following the school’s transition to the Orange Plan–soon to be followed by the Yellow Plan, Potomac’s bus fleet is once again up and rolling. The symbol of our bright yellow buses with their iconic blue stripe is again headed towards neighborhoods and cities throughout the DMV area.

However, the seating on the buses has changed significantly since we saw them last spring. Potomac has instituted new safety protocols to de-densify the buses and keep students safe. Students cannot get on their bus until they’ve completed their daily wellness check. Once on board, buses follow a strict rule of one student per seat and two per row, as represented in the diagram to the right.  In addition to this form of mobile social distancing, everyone is required to wear a mask. 

The buses themselves are being spritzed up. A third party cleaning service gave the buses a deep cleaning and sanitizing before the start of school. High touch surfaces are cleaned daily.

Fortunately, students feel as if these safety protocols have been successfully implemented.

All of this has gone over well with students. Junior Emily Raman, who rides the North Arlington bus, said, speaking of pre-COVID times, “On a normal day, my bus has about ten rows going back, and an average of one to two people in each of the seats, so in general, it’s pretty full. Today, both to school and back, it was only me, my sister, and one other person, so definitely a huge change from normal times.”

Emily also said that everyone was following safety protocols, and never interacted closely for prolonged periods of time. In addition, the windows were opened to help circulate air, which has proved to help reduce transmission.

“I’m curious to see how my comfort level will change as either we progress to the yellow plan or if more people start taking the bus  I think there’s definitely room for more people to be on the bus without it feeling overly crowded,” Emily said.

While it is clear that the student body is now having to re-adjust to these unprecedented times, the transportation department has felt the impact of Covid-19 the entire summer.

“During this entire pandemic the mechanics have all pretty much been here non-stop,” Mr. Perry Swope, Director of Special Projects, Security, and Transportation, said. He described how COVID-19 presented new opportunities to get some much-need work done on the buses that would have not been feasible before, when they were used daily for school or the school’s large [email protected] camp. 

The school continued to pay its drivers during the shutdown, although drivers did not have the opportunity to supplement their school-year salary by driving for the summer camp, which was shut down last summer. 

Not only did the halting of the bus system deprive bus drivers of an additional source of income, but the drivers also missed the long-lasting relationships they have formed with students and co-workers

“The emotional rending can be as hard as the financial loss,” Mr. Swope said when speaking of drivers and staff.

Though the past six months proved challenging for the bus drivers and mechanics, their efforts have been essential in the school’s phased reopening plans. The largest busing fleet of any independent school on the Atlantic seaboard is back in action.