Mask Mandate on School Buses for the 2021-22 School Year


Credit to Peter Pae

The buses are parked in the Francis Howell North parking lot.

By Peter Pae and Morgan Chairs

With all the changes that came this year, the buses had some of the most impactful changes. Most of these changes are for the pandemic and contact-tracing, so that students can feel safe while on the bus and school administrators can contact trace efficiently. Jennifer Simpson, the Transportation Director of the Francis Howell District, is responsible for the safe transportation of all students in the districts to and from their homes and all activities.

“We have assigned seats on the bus just like we did last year, so that if someone tests positive we can go back and see who they were sitting by, and then follow up and see what we need to do from there,” Simpson said. “There’s a federal mandate that states everyone has to wear a mask on the bus, so all the students have to wear the mask and the driver when the kids are within six feet of them.”

The Federal Mask Mandate, issued by the CDC on January 29, 2021 required people to wear masks on public transportation, which included school buses. The mask mandate and the other precautions have mostly been received positively by students. For example, Sophomore Savannah Degenhardt appreciates the safety procedures implemented on the buses.

“I think that this makes it a lot easier for [the school] to do contract tracing, since you know where everyone is,” Degenhardt said. “Also, hand sanitizing and wearing a mask is a good precaution. I think that it’s more effective for COVID than it was last year.”

 There are fewer online students than in-person compared to last year, bringing the amount of students who ride the bus equal to the amount before the pandemic. Unfortunately for this, not all of the students who ride the bus are happy with the new changes.

“We have students who don’t want to wear a mask when they’re on the bus, and that creates a dangerous situation for everyone,” Simpson said. “Our biggest challenge is getting students to continue to wear the mask like they’re supposed to on the bus.”

These students who don’t wear masks on the bus have caused a lot of worry to not only the administration, but also to the bus drivers such as FHN Bus Driver, Cliff Miller.

“The only real issue we have right now is the mask mandate,” Miller said. “The issue I’m having with my high school kids is [masks] are optional in high school, but on the buses it’s mandatory and my high school kids are really struggling with that as soon as they get on the bus.” 

The inconsistency of the mask mandate for inside the schools and on the buses also adds to the complaints from students about the mask mandate on the bus. 

“Last year, everybody was required to wear masks on all levels,” Miller said. “This year, it’s optional for the high school, and the high school kids don’t understand why they can go all day in school and not have to wear a mask, but as soon as they get on the bus they have to wear it.”