Last updated: Jan. 21, 2022, 4:28 p.m.
Correction, Jan. 21, 2022: An earlier version of this article implied that no students were transported by bus to the affected schools on Jan. 21-22; however, students in special education still received their regular transportation.
On Jan. 19 at 7:11 p.m., School District 308 sent an email addressed to SD308 parents and staff stating that there would be yet another bus driver and monitor shortage for Thursday and Friday, this time involving the routes affiliated with Traughber Jr. High School and Oswego High School. The situation allows for students that normally take the bus to instead stay home and continue to learn via remote learning while others attend in person.
“We had numerous bus drivers and bus monitors out, enough so that we could not run buses for all schools,” Theresa Komitas, director of communications and public relations for the district, said in an email to 42Fifty. “Many of the absences were due to COVID related quarantines or isolations.”
The district’s solution for this shortage lied in taking buses from different schools.
“By taking one high school out, and one junior high out, and delaying one elementary school’s buses, we could run buses for the remaining students,” Komitas said. “OHS and Traughber routes gave us the most drivers that we could use to fill in for the absent staff.”
The district’s email, along with a separate text, stated that Southbury Elementary School would also be affected with their bus routes being delayed by 30 minutes, posing a larger problem for students and parents alike. The district confirmed that students in special education who are provided specialized transportation will still be transported on their regular routes and times.
The Patch reported that SD308 experienced transportation delays Thursday, Jan. 13, with district officials attributing these hindrances to a number of bus drivers calling out with COVID-19 infections and exposures.
Confirmed cases and exposures to COVID-19 have increased exponentially since the end of November 2021. After having no new reported cases from Nov. 25 to Nov. 28, Illinois saw 26,430 new cases yesterday alone. Kendall County itself saw 12,244 cases as of January 14, 2022. The district reported a combined total of 326 student and staff absences for the week of Jan. 10 to Jan. 16. The rise in cases calls into question the future of both transportation and schooling.
Some students, when asked for their overall thoughts, were concerned about the situation of their classmates.
“People are using it as an excuse to stay home,” OHS junior Maegan Parr said.
Junior Nicole Ely, who lives with her OHS senior brother Nathan, voiced her opinions on the staying-home issue.
“We can both drive to school,” Ely said. “We just didn’t want to.”
Many students also were not prepared for the sudden email.
“I didn’t understand what it meant until my mom told me,” Ely said. “[They could have] notified us earlier. It was such late notice.”
The heavy downward spike in in-person attendance has also been acknowledged by OHS teachers, and it’s affecting them just as much as the student body.
“We have had less than half of the students present in all of my classes,” OHS English teacher Mrs. Victoria Dickson said. “The majority of them [showed up online]”.
But it’s not just OHS teachers facing the effects of this shortage.
“The office staff had told us that [this shortage] was not supposed to affect us at Hunt Club at all,” Hunt Club Elementary School art teacher Mrs. Bridget Piekarczyk said. “It took 30 minutes for my class to be in attendance.”
In a situation such as this, where short notice can cause panic or disorganization, online learning allowed classes to continue mostly unhindered.
“We were able to pivot to accommodate students with the same instruction as if they were here,” Traughber Junior High School algebra teacher Mr. John Romanovich said. “I think we—as teachers, as a district—are doing absolutely everything we can to make sure kids get the best we can deliver. In this instance, I think we’re kicking butt.”
Additional reporting by Ana Iracheta, Austin Lamb, Zander Haas, Trinity Heard, and Delaney Holman.