Before the pandemic, the bus was considered a safe option for transporting children to childcare. After the pandemic, carpooling seems less risky. According to a Cars.com survey taken between July 22, 2020, and August 4, 2020, nearly half of respondents said their kids took the bus before the pandemic. After COVID-19 came on the scene, it dropped to slightly less than a third. Carpooling, on the other hand, increased from nine percent to 11 percent. If parents are no longer in love with sending their children on your bus or have changed to carpool for other reasons, you can lend a helping hand. Here are some tips for creating a safe school or childcare carpool.
Social Distancing for Carpool
When carpooling children outside the family group, parents should try to extend the service to children in the same classroom, pod, or group as their children. Since the children will be together at preschool or childcare anyway, they can reduce the risk of exposure.
Social distancing inside a vehicle can be tricky, but spreading out the passengers as much as possible and providing a high ventilation level lessens the risk. Parents with a third-row SUV or minivan have the most space. Placing one child in each row is the best way to keep people apart.
Driver and Vehicle Safety
Keeping Coronavirus exposure to a minimum is just one part of ensuring a safe carpool. Other steps to take include:
- Background checks on each driver
- Verify vehicle safety
- Check insurance
- Establish a code of conduct
Every driver must provide proof of vehicle inspection, a current copy of their driver’s license, proof of comprehensive insurance, and a successful motor vehicle record check.
All vehicles must have working seat belts. According to state regulations, booster seats and car seats are necessary for any child under the mandatory height and weight. A call to the auto insurer is advisable; parents should ask if the coverage extends to this type of vehicle use.
A code of conduct keeps everyone on the same page and the carpool running smoothly. Rules might include:
- No substitute drivers - only those vetted for carpool may drive.
- The vehicle must have a current inspection sticker.
- The driver remains with the vehicle at all times.
- No cell phone use while driving.
- No deviations from the agreed route.
- No eating or drinking on the ride to or from childcare.
Of course, no child may ride in the front passenger seat if they are not legally allowed according to federal and state law.
The carpool parents should receive accident protocol training, including:
- What to do
- Who to contact
- Steps to take after the accident
On a less worrisome note, parents need to agree about the level and type of discipline the driving parent is allowed to give. If a parent has a particular topic they do not want spoken of to their child, that must be part of the agreement.
Confidentiality must be maintained as well. If a driver must know personal information about a passenger, they should not give that information to anyone who is not authorized to have it.
Children in the carpool need to know some rules, too. Teach them what to do and who to talk to if they have any concerns about the adults driving or other children’s behavior.
To ensure there is always a driver and that the duty is fairly distributed, the carpool needs to agree to a rotation of drivers and determine what to do if a driver cannot take their turn.
They should create a full schedule as far ahead as possible, including backup drivers for emergencies. Everyone should have contact information for each driver in the group and a preferred method of contact.
The carpool coordinates pick-up and drop-off, including where the child is to be met and dropped off.
Transparent communication is crucial for the smooth functioning of a carpool program. Everyone should agree to abide by the rules and pass along important information.
A group chat is a handy method for keeping everyone in the loop about the need for backup drivers, illnesses and vacations, and who to contact if a child or adult is ill. Every driver and parent is responsible for providing timely information to the rest of the group.
EZChildTrack’s Carpool Tool
EZChildTrack childcare management software has a new tool to help with carpooling.
The software administrator sets up a carpool and assigns it a PIN. The PIN is used to record attendance for all children in the carpool. Alternatively, the driver can use the QR code module as they would for a single child.
The carpool feature streamlines drop-off by checking in all children at once from a single vehicle, and the system is touch-less. The driver and childcare staff do not need to sign a paper roster or log in at a shared terminal.
The carpool driver just sends the PIN and drives up. Once the children disembark, the driver can pull away and let the next car in.
The carpool feature also provides accurate attendance records, showing the date and time of arrival for each child. The PIN or QR code places an automatic signature in the system, and you can identify the driver anytime you need.
Carpooling can be a safe alternative to busing children to your facility, and it can save parents wear and tear plus fuel to share the driving duties.
As long as it’s possible to socially distance the riders, the driver follows state and federal law, and the schedule properly maintained, a carpool provides a welcome community service for any preschool or childcare facility.