13 R-I bus drivers self-isolating, delays expected

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Poplar Bluff R-I School District will delay bus routes for at least two days after it identified about a third of available drivers through contact tracing from COVID-19.

According to school officials, 13 of the 38 district drivers are self-quarantined.

Five high school, five middle school/junior high, three O’Neal Elementary, two Lake Road Elementary and one Eugene Field Elementary routes should expect delays at least for Tuesday and Wednesday.

A detailed list is available on the district’s website.

“There’s no way with that many drivers down, that our routes are going to run according to their previously fairly predictable schedule,” Dr. Scott Dill, superintendent, said. “Until we get drivers back in the buses, we are going to do the best we can.

“But, we’re also going to be deliberate in our safety and the safety of the children. If that means it’s going to take extra time, then it’ll take extra time. I’m not going to apologize for that.”

The primary goal of the transportation department, Dill said, is to transport students to and from school safely. In this situation, that means holding some students on campus until a bus can get them.

Dill said the district encourages parents of bus-rider students to bring them to school by car if possible, at least while drivers need to be out, to help decrease the demand on staff.

The district will communicate the best it can, he said, on the situation both with bus drivers and COVID-19 overall.

A page is set up on the district’s website with the number of positives, the number in quarantine and the percentage of the school population those numbers equal.

Not all the positives or those in quarantine were exposed at school, administration said, but are out of school currently.

The page also lists the number of positives at each campus.

Dill said staff will update it at least once a week, preferably more often.

The numbers are updates by health services staff, which are the same people who conduct contact tracing for the district before the Butler County Health Department does it’s investigation.

As of Tuesday, the district had 16 people, or 0.26%, with positive tests and 243, or 3.89%, in quarantine.

“We need to ensure the data is as current as possible,” he said. “But, we need to ask for a little bit of patience here.

“The people that collect that data for the school district, and then put that data out, are so busy in contact tracing situations, that we haven’t had time to sit down and tabulate the data.”

Dill would like to expand the district’s list of substitute bus drivers, he said, but that isn’t somebody who can just volunteer in many cases. It takes a special license to operate a school bus which most people don’t have lying around.

The district needs “grace and patience” from parents, Dill said, as it figures out the best way to proceed in these kinds of situations.

“This is only the first time this has happened. It will not be the last,” he said.

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