School buses and allowable alternate vehicles are generally the safest modes of transportation for children. They are also necessary for many children and families to participate in Head Start programs. Implementing safe practices is essential when providing transportation services during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This section is regularly updated with the most relevant guidance.

ACF-IM-HS-20-04 Head Start Transportation Services and Vehicles During the COVID-19 Pandemic
This Information Memorandum (IM) describes how to implement safe practices when providing transportation services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Considerations for Head Start Transportation Services and Vehicles During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Webinar)
The Office of Head Start (OHS) leads a conversation about Head Start transportation services and vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subpart F – Transportation, 45 CFR §1303: FAQs from OHS CAMP Session 3

Q1: How can programs support transportation staff safety?
A1: Programs should do the following to ensure transportation safety:

  • Strongly encourage staff members who are sick to stay home, particularly those who have tested positive or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Make available and ensure the use of cloth face coverings per recommendations.
  • Make available and ensure the use of hand hygiene supplies per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.
  • Assign vulnerable workers alternate duties that minimize their contact with children, families, and other employees, if possible.

Q2: How should vehicles be cleaned between use?
A2: Programs should clean and disinfect vehicles between each use pursuant to CDC's recommended process using products that are U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19. Be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces. Ensure safe and correct use of cleaning and disinfection products, including storing products securely away from children. Cleaning products should not be used near children. Staff should ensure there is adequate ventilation when using these products to prevent children or staff from inhaling toxic vapors.

Q3: Can programs use agency vehicles to transport food and supplies?
A3: Yes. When programs use agency vehicles to transport food and supplies, they should:

  • Minimize contact between vehicle operators and other staff, children, and families as they load and deliver supplies.
  • Make available and ensure the use of cloth face coverings and hand hygiene supplies, as described above.
  • Ensure staff maintain at least 6 feet (about two adult arms' length) between each other and families receiving supplies.

Transportation, 45 CFR §1303: FAQ from OHS CAMP Session 6

Q4: Can staff support families with transportation if families live in a place that does not have access to public transportation? Purpose, 45 CFR §1303.70 
A4: Head Start programs are required to serve children with the highest need in their service area. These children often need transportation services to attend. Programs should consider transportation services that meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards requirements and can be efficiently provided. This may be through direct provision (e.g., program employs drivers and monitors and owns or leases vehicles), contract with student transportation provider, or partnership with school district. If a very high-need family lives in an isolated area and there is a parent available at home, the home-based options may be appropriate. Lack of transportation should not prevent eligible children from receiving Head Start services.

Q5: Are children screened before they get on the bus? If so, who does that screening? Purpose, 45 CFR §1303.70
A5: Programs should conduct a health check of all children and staff before they board vehicles. We encourage programs to consider training and equipping bus monitors to use a non-contact thermometer. Programs should not transport individuals with a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or above or who show other signs of illness.

Q6: How will the students practice social distancing on the bus? Safety procedures, 45 CFR §1303.74
A6: We advise programs to refer to ACF-IM-HS-20-04 Head Start Transportation Services and Vehicles During the COVID-19 Pandemic for guidance related to transportation. This IM notes that programs should position children as far apart as possible. There should be one child per bench in non-consecutive rows, but children from the same home may sit together. If possible, ensure children sit 6 feet away from the vehicle operator. Programs may need to do extra bus runs or contract additional transportation services to meet community needs.