Study explores COVID-19 transmission risk during school bus transportation

Although in-school transmission of COVID-19 among K-12 students is low when safeguards are in place, the risk of acquiring COVID-19 during school bus transportation is unclear. A study published in the Journal of School Health reports on the bus transport experience of an independent school in Virginia.

For the study, the school monitored 1,154 students with asymptomatic PCR testing every 2 weeks initially and later every week from August 28, 2020-March 19, 2021, during highest community transmission. Fifteen buses served 462 students while operating at near capacity of 2 students in every seat, using a physical distancing minimum of 2.5 feet, universal masking, and simple ventilation techniques.

There were 39 infectious COVID-19 cases who were present on buses during the study period, which resulted in the quarantine of 52 students. Universal testing and contact tracing revealed no transmission linked to bus transportation.

The pandemic has made it very difficult for public schools to meet the transportation needs of students. Many districts simply do not have enough buses and drivers to allow distancing of 3-6 feet or skipping of bus rows while still providing rides to all children. With more students returning to face-to-face instruction, safe transportation to school is an equity issue, as many families are unable to drive their children to school each day. As members of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics School Re-Opening Task Force, we recognize that schools are under pressure to make data-driven operational decisions. We hope the model we describe and our data can be of assistance in demonstrating that school buses can safely operate at normal capacity even at high community COVID-19 case loads."

Dana Ramirez, MD, Corresponding Author, Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters

Journal reference:

Ramirez, D.W.E., et al. (2021) COVID-19 Transmission during Transportation of 1st to 12th Grade Students: Experience of an Independent School in Virginia. Journal of School Health.


  1. Jeffrey Wilcziek Jeffrey Wilcziek United States says:

    I have been a public school bus driver for 15 years and union steward for half that. The numbers in the study don't make any sense. First of all, there are 26 seats on a full size school bus, the legal capacity is 3 students per seat which would be 72 students. If the study served 462 students on 15 buses, that is 31 students per bus while claiming operating at 'near capacity'. Thats less than 1/2 capacity. The study claims using 2 students per seat, spaced a minimum 2.5 feet apart. This figure is physically impossible to achieve due to the seat spacing design of the bus which, by the way would be 52 students at two per seat, not 31 as the study claims. It is my professional opinion that this safety study of Covid transmission on school buses is a farce.

  2. jerry swanson jerry swanson United States says:

    I have been a public school bus driver for 15 years and union steward for half that. The numbers provided in this study just don't add up. First of all, there are 26 seats on a full size school bus, so if the study operated at 'near capacity' that would actually be three students per seat and operate at the legal capacity if 72 students. This study suggests that 462 students were served on 15 school buses, that equals 31 students per bus, thats actually less than half capacity. Also, the study proposes that two students per seat were spaced at a minimum of 2.5 feet apart at, which is physically impossible due to the seat spacing design of the school bus. It is my professional opinion that all this study does, is provide a false sense of security for parents, students, drivers, staff, and administration, and should be disregarded completely.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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