Long Island school buses are filling up again to start 2021, as more kids gradually return for in-person instruction.
School bus operators said they’ve seen a steady increase of passengers, as infection rates for the coronavirus have fallen in recent weeks and school boards are approving more in-person learning days.
"We’re moving more children now than we were," said John Corrado, president of Suffolk Transportation Service, which buses students in 19 Suffolk school districts.
The bus operators said they are not adding buses to accommodate the heightened ridership, but rather increasing the number of students on each bus.
Corey Muirhead, executive vice president of Guardian Bus Company, said the uptick in ridership reflects the fact that safety measures such as mask mandates, open windows and social distancing seem to be effective in preventing the virus from spreading on buses.
"We’ve proven it to be safe with the reduced capacity on the vehicles," said Muirhead, who is also president of the New York School Bus Contractors Association. "The parents and the communities are feeling safer."
Guardian buses students in 15 Long Island districts.
Corrado said it would be difficult to add buses for the remainder of the school year, in part because of a shortage of bus drivers. But he noted buses are still running below capacity, even with more students returning.