Schools ask community for help amid COVID spike, bus driver shortage

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the local community and the state has led to an increased number of student and employee absences within the St. Charles Parish school system, and that’s led school representatives to reach out to the community for help.

A major shortage in bus operators combined with limited seating capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions have adversely affected bus services, schools superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling said in an address to the community via Facebook Friday evening. As such, Oertling said that beginning this week school system representatives would be contacting specific families requesting help in providing transportation for their children to school.

Oertling said this will only apply to students on specific routes where buses are over capacity allotment and requiring a bus operator to conduct multiple runs to prevent overcrowding.

“Currently, bus operators are driving for all three tiers, conducting multiple runs and covering a number of extra runs for operators who are unavailable,” Oertling said.

The situation is temporary, district spokeswoman Stevie Crovetto said, but there is no estimate yet on how long the measure will be needed.

He said this was one of a number of different options the district was considering to relieve pressure on current school operations, including potential shifts to bell times and learning models, and asked families to be prepared for those possibilities should it become necessary. It could become necessary to shift to virtual learning for certain grade levels, schools or students depending on how the situation progresses. Currently, the parish’s two high schools are operating on a hybrid schedule, while elementary and middle school students are on traditional schedules, attending in person classes 5-days a week.

Oertling noted that the uptick in positive COVID-19 cases statewide was expected due to the holidays, but that it nonetheless has impacted school operations significantly. That said, he added there has not been a spread of the virus within schools.

“Knowing the burden of shifting to a completely virtual setting would cause our families, students and community, we have and continue to do everything within our means to remain open and continue providing auxiliary services to students and families,” Oertling said. “With that goal in mind, I am asking for your help, understanding and preparation for potential changes to school system operations.”

He also requested families do all they can to help keep schools open by continuing to adhere to COVID-19 safety practices while out in the community and at home.

 

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