School bus leaders say mask up and expect delays as school year begins

Federal order requires masks on all public transportation including school buses

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) – Wednesday, many children will get on the bus and head off for their first day of school. This year is a different start than last year when most schools were virtual. Now, students will set the webcams aside and see their teachers in person.

“We’re adapting better than we were a year ago,” said Richard Kline, director of transportation for the School District of West Salem.

Before students walk into a school building, many will hop on the bus.

“1,500 kids,” Kline said. That’s how many kids Richard Kline’s fleet of drivers bus to school every day.

“The years come and they go but every year is a new and exciting challenge,” he said.

This year, Richard has a requirement for students.

“Making sure they stay seated, keep your hands in the windows, don’t throw anything,” Kline said. “Just general rules. The face masking is just another one of those rules.”

A rule raising opposition from some parents in the community.

As far as masks on buses are concerned, it doesn’t matter if a student is in the West Salem School District, the Onalaska School District, or the school district of La Crosse, or any school district for that matter. A federal order requires all students wear a mask on the bus.

“We don’t have control over these mandates,” Kline said.

There’s not a lot of room inside a bus. Students are all in one closed spot. Health experts say masks will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 so students can stay learning in the classroom.

“This helps protect not only yourself but it really is to protect other people as well,” said Megan Eddy, a nursing administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System. 

“We’re doing everything we can to mitigate the high risk of COVID in our school system.”

Kline said stay patient as drivers learn their routes and schedules fall into place.

“We also have some latecomers that haven’t signed up for transportation yet,” Kline said. “There’s last-minute changes that happen that can affect routes.”

He says their job is to get all 1,500 students to and from school safely.

“We’re gonna do whatever it takes to keep the kids in school,” Kline said. “We don’t want to have to go virtual again.”

Go-Riteway in La Crosse has a new app for parents to try. It’s called Here Comes the Bus. This allows parents to track their child’s bus in real-time.

(Information sent to parents August 2021)

Here Comes the Bus is a free app that enables parents to:
• See the location of your child’s bus both before and after school
• Confirm that your child’s bus has arrived at the bus stop, at school or both
• Receive a push notification* or email message when the bus is near your stop, has been substituted,
or when we have important information to relay
Here Comes the Bus is powered by Synovia Solutions™, makers of the GPS-tracking technology used by
School District of La Crosse and Go Riteway to increase safety and cost savings as it relates to our
school bus fleet.
Available in three languages (English, Spanish and French), the Here Comes the Bus app can be
downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.
To sign up or to learn more about Here Comes the Bus, visit http://www.herecomesthebus.com.
Should you have any questions, please contact Go Riteway at 608-881-6370
If you need to contact Here Comes the Bus customer support, please go to:
www.help.herecomesthebus.com/en/support/home and click on “Contact Support.” You will be asked to
provide the following information:
• Your name
• The School District of La Crosse ID Code – 87866
• Email address used for your Here Comes the Bus account
• Your child’s first and last name, and student ID number – Student ID can be found under Skyward Family
Access. Click the “Portfolio” tab on the left, then click the “Here Comes the Bus Report”, then a popup will
open where you can click on “View Report” to open the report with your child’s ID number on it.
• Description of the question