SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – The North Syracuse Central School District is resuming in-person classes on Thursday.
While Wednesday is a remote-only today districtwide, Tuesday’s classes were moved to online-only after a bus driver tested positive for COVID-19. The one positive case resulted in 15 drivers being quarantined due to contact tracing.
In response to the two-week absence of those bus drivers, the North Syracuse Central School District is using standby drivers to keep the routes going.
“We have been using them to fill in normal absences that occur,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Don Keegan said. “We will be using them over the two weeks, during this quarantine period, to cover these 15 drivers.”
Keegan said the district has seven to ten standby drivers. North Syracuse’s adjusted school schedule aids the district in pulling off the effort. All schools are separated into cohorts. Cohort A attends school in-person on Monday and Tuesday. Cohort B attends Thursday and Friday.
“We are operating our fleet at so far below its capacity,” Keegan said. “We have a little bit of wiggle room in leveraging our driver and attendants.”
Keegan said 3,000 of the district’s 8,000 students ride the bus on a given day. He said 2,000 students are completely remote. In total, the district runs 135 different bus routes, making the 15 quarantined drivers not a huge portion of the overall total. Still, Keegan said this incident illustrates how important it is for all involved in education, not just teachers and students, to stay COVID-19 free.
“We’re an educational institution, and we focus on the teaching-learning process,” Keegan said. “But, like any other great organization, there’s a lot of people that support the teaching-learning process. Bus drivers is one of them.”
This week, Onondaga County is beginning to do random testing at schools. This includes all faculty and staff members. Keegan said that teachers have the most interaction with students, but essential service workers help the schools to stay open.
“When any one of those roles becomes compromised due to something like COVID-19, it does undermine the operational capacity of the district,” Keegan said.
The district’s services have been reconfigured because of the pandemic. Keegan said it’s a “people-based business.” Despite the unforeseen hurdles, Keegan said those people are going beyond their normal duties.
“Our bus drivers are over wiping down classrooms in between bus runs. Our food service workers are manning food distribution locations in the early evening so that our community can be fed,” Keegan said. “Everybody here is doing things that they never expected to do, all to support the ongoing education of our students.”