There have been many complaints and much concern expressed about Batavia City Schools’ current busing situation, Board President Alice Benedict says. Parents have been quite vocal about the need to put three students per seat on Jackson and John Kennedy school buses, however, it has all been online.
Board meetings have been void of any such vocal discourse, she said.
“No parents have ever attended. But there have been lots of comments on social media,” Benedict said during an interview Saturday. “We’re criticized for the choices made, but nobody has taken the time to come and talk to us. Unfortunately, it’s something we don’t have any control over.”
A lack of drivers at the district’s bus operator, Student Transportation of America, has in turn meant fewer buses per run. To accommodate all of the students needing transportation, they have been assigned three per seat, she said.
“There’s not anything the school district can do about it, other than ask parents to take their kids off the bus and drive them to school themselves,” she said. “We’re still talking to the bus company … for me personally as a board member, (Business Administrator) Mr. Rozanski is doing the best he can. They just don’t have the bodies to drive.”
Batavia is far from alone in this dilemma. ABCnews.go.com states that schools across the country, from Pennsylvania and Virginia to Missouri, Ohio, and Texas, have reported similar shortages. Georgia’s Savannah-Chatham County Public School System reported a 30 percent decrease of more than 110 drivers upon the start of this school season, the website states. Covid is to blame for the lack of drivers, Paul Abbott, executive director for transportation for the district, said to ABC News, it states.
The city school district is short some four buses, which has caused delays, late arrivals and the three-per-seat set-up. STA operates more than 16,000 vehicles for over 300 school districts, according to its website, and is “committed to providing our customers with the highest level of safe and reliable transportation solutions available.” The company’s public relations department did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Students are required to wear masks on the bus, and they can take brief mask “breaks” if the weather is nice and the windows are open, Benedict said. Many of them have been told by their parents to wear the mask for the duration of the bus trip and not take them off at all, she said.
As for other virus-related measures, Covid testing equipment has been issued to the district by the Genesee County Health Department, Interim Superintendent Scott Bischoping said during the board’s Thursday meeting. Students with potential symptoms of the Covid-19 virus can be tested during the day.
The Health Department will notify school officials if anyone does test positive, and contact tracing will begin to track down who the infected person was in contact with prior to being tested, he said, “and making the determination if a quarantine is necessary.” The total quarantine would be for 10 days, minus any days already lapsed before diagnosing the Covid case, he said.
Having access to on-site testing and wearing masks are two methods to maintaining a healthy environment, he said.
“Our families want our kids in school as much as possible,” he said.
The next board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 21 in Batavia High School library, 260 State St.
A related Q&A was posted Thursday on the district’s website to clarify its protocols for Covid-19 guidelines. That is shown below:
SEP 16, 2021
Dear BCSD Parents and Guardians,
Over the last few days, we’ve received a few questions from parents about protocols regarding our COVID-19 guidelines that we want to clarify for the larger community.
We appreciate the questions and will continue to update you as they arise.
Q: Are there outbreaks of the virus in our buildings?
A: While cases of the virus have been reported to us by the Genesee County Health Department, only a small number of those cases resulted from a spread within our buildings. Most reported cases are due to a spread of the virus outside of school, and families have taken the necessary steps to quarantine. While this situation could change, we will report any significant issues directly to families.
In an effort to provide transparent information on COVID-19 cases reported throughout the Batavia City School District, going forward, each Monday, we will be posting the number of positive student and staff cases reported from the previous week on our website: BataviaCSD.org.
Q: How will families be made aware of cases within the schools?
A: We are working in collaboration with the Genesee County Health Department who is providing guidance when there is a positive case in any of our district buildings.
Once a positive case is identified, the Health Department determines who that child or staff member has been in contact with. From there, Health Department officials determine what action is warranted (i.e., testing, quarantine, etc.).
You will be contacted directly by the Health Department if your child was in contact with another person who has tested positive, and they will work with you to determine the next steps.
Q: Are there three students per seat on our buses?
A: Yes, there are three students per seat on our Jackson and John Kennedy bus runs in many cases. While we would have preferred to have enough buses to have separate bus runs for each building with fewer students on each bus, our transportation contractor has been unable to provide the necessary buses due to the nationwide bus driver shortage.
Q: What are you doing to try to get more buses?
A: We will continue to work with our busing contractor STA to find more opportunities to increase the number of buses servicing our district, including using subcontractors. But as of today, we don’t have a solution in place.
Q: Is it true that students are allowed to take mask breaks on buses?
A: We have advised our bus drivers to allow students to take brief mask breaks – especially on hot days. These breaks are permitted (but not required) to avoid students getting overheated. Weather permitting, we are also opening our bus windows.
As a parent, you can certainly advise your child not to remove their mask during these breaks.
As a reminder, if a student or staff member exhibits any COVID symptoms, they should not report to school that day and should contact the building nurse immediately.
Please reach out to your child’s principal if you have any additional questions or concerns.