Athens Schools Shut Down As COVID Sidelines Bus Drivers

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Just two days into the school year, the Athens City School District is shutting down at least until next Wednesday because it no longer has enough bus drivers as a result of COVID-19 quarantines.

Superintendent Tom Gibbs informed families of the decision late Thursday night after yet another member of the district’s transportation team was required to quarantine.

This was the latest of several messages beginning Thursday morning as the district updated families on its increasingly desperate efforts to figure out a way to get as many bus-driven students to school as possible.

So many bus drivers were out on quarantine Wednesday, the first day of school, that all transportation staff were having to pitch in and drive. Many students ended up on the wrong buses after school, resulting in long delays getting home.

Gibbs sent a message to families Thursday morning apologizing for the confusion. He also acknowledged that in the midst of trying to deal with the mix-ups Wednesday afternoon, the district did not communicate well enough with families who didn’t know what was going on and where their children were.

He noted that some bus routes were being combined to compensate for the driver shortage and this would result in long delays for some students in getting home after school Thursday.

Thursday afternoon, families were sent updated bus routes and schedules, with a promise to send messages to families if buses were delayed leaving school, with estimates of when students would arrive at their bus stops.

“I understand why not having this information yesterday was upsetting, and I sincerely apologize that this information was not previously provided,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs sent out a message Thursday evening noting that things had gone much smoother after school. But there was more bad news. Another member of the transportation team had come down with symptoms and could no longer drive.

“With as many people out as we have, there are not many options,” Gibbs said. In an effort to keep as many students in school as possible, he said, one bus route would be canceled each day for the next three school days until some of the quarantined drivers were able to return to work on Wednesday.

Students who could not make it to school because of the route cancellations would have their absences excused.

An hour and a half later came the final message of the day, with word of yet another driver now in quarantine and the decision to cancel school altogether.

“I’m very sorry I’ve had to make this decision,” Gibbs said. He said he would update families Monday on whether it is looking like schools will reopen as planned on Wednesday.