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Waterloo schools go fully-remote for next 8 days as more transportation staff forced to quarantine

The Waterloo Central School District has gone fully-remote.

The district made the announcement in a letter to parents and community members as five additional bus drivers were forced to quarantine after a positive case of COVID-19 in the transportation department.

“As we have previously shared, the District Administrative team has been working collaboratively with the Department of Health to navigate the District’s response to a COVID positive case within our transportation department,” the letter began. “Through additional contact tracing, it was determined via an email sent to me at 5:13 p.m. this evening by the Seneca County Health Department, that five additional Waterloo employees from the transportation department will need to quarantine. Due to the Department of Health’s required quarantine, the District will not have sufficient transportation staff to support our transportation needs. Therefore, we will not be able to have in-person instruction.”

At this point, the district will transition to virtual learning for all in-district learners with the expectation of returning on November 18th. However, only elementary and intermediate students will return to in-person learning at that point.

The district says it has received plenty of feedback from parents who posed a relatively simple question: “Why can’t the District go out and hire more bus drivers?”

The district says that hiring drivers has been a priority for the district for many years. However, they have been advertising for open positions for three years. “We are constantly adding drivers when we have applicants. We do not get many applicants, as becoming licensed to be a bus driver is a lengthy and complex process, and the job carries with it a tremendous amount of responsibility,” the district continued.

It’s a lengthy process that requires fingerprinting, written testing, studying, training, and additional training from the state. When all is said and done, it takes approximately two months for a person to go from potential bus driver – to authorized bus driver. Even after that period, sometimes drivers aren’t ready to take on their own routes.

“As you can see, from start to finish, this process can take four to six months. We are constantly advertising, interviewing, and training new drivers when we have applicants. Kudos to our transportation department for the important work they complete each day. It is not an easy job, and they do it well,” Superintendent Terri Bavis said of it. “We are doing our best every day to keep our doors open to students. We fully realize the burden these closings place on our families and are doing everything we can to remain open safely. I cannot express how sorry I am to have to close our doors to our elementary students once again. My hope was to keep us open for our youngest learners through next week when we welcome back our secondary students with more of our transportation staff back in place. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus did not cooperate.”