WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- While some things are remaining the same in Wake County schools this year, such as wearing a face mask, some other things are changing.
The News & Observer compiled a list of the new changes affecting Wake schools this upcoming school year.
Changing bus routes
The county is dealing with a 16.9% vacancy in school bus drivers by having more drivers double up on routes. Most of this year's routes will be "double runs," in which drivers have to build in extra time to pick up and drop off two separate groups of students.
Wake County is estimating morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up times to be 10 minutes delayed, but those delays could be longer until routes sort themselves out.
Bus routes can be found here.
Easier for sick kids to return to class
Last year, students who were sick for any reason (such as rash or earache) had to get a negative COVID-19 test or a doctor's diagnosis that it wasn't COVID. Now, that process will only be necessary if students are showing symptoms of COVID, such as a 100.4 fever or higher and sore throat.
Students who do not have COVID symptoms may return to school after they have gone 24 hours without a fever.
Clustering students together
Wake County elementary and middle school students will, when possible, only be around a specific group of children a day. They will have seating charts that will help determine how students are grouped when walking to the cafeteria and in the classroom.
Students will also be grouped for recess and seating charts will be enforced for buses.
No more silent lunch
Students will be allowed to talk during meals with classmates who are seated next to them, this includes when their masks are taken off to eat.
Schools are still trying to limit the time masks are off to 15 minutes.
Last year, transmission concerns resulted in schools making students face the same direction and not talk during lunch.