Covid outbreak among DV bus drivers shuts down school

Milford. All Delaware Valley schools closed on Tuesday after 12 school bus drivers tested positive for the coronavirus, with four more exposed through contact or with symptoms. Elementary students will return to campus while older grades will continue to attend class on Zoom.

| 08 Dec 2021 | 07:09

Delaware Valley parents learned in an emergency message sent at 5:15 a.m. Tuesday that all schools in the district would be closed that day.

Sixteen school bus drivers were sidelined by Covid. Twelve tested positive, with four more either exposed through contact or experiencing symptoms. “

“Our goal is to have all kids in school,” said Bell. “The next best thing is to have all elementary students in school.”

He said virtual learning in the elementary grades creates a hardship for working parents since these children can’t be left home alone. “It is lot easier to teach a high school class online than it is to teach a kindergarten class online,” Bell said in the post.

As of Wednesday, with buses still limited, Bell said the plan for the rest of the week was to keep pre-K through grade 5 open for in-person learning, while grades 6-12 will learn via Zoom. That depends on parents driving their elementary school children to campus.

“Delaware Valley Elementary School will not have any bus transportation to or from school,” said Bell. He said almost half of DVES students are driven to or walk to school. “We are asking the rest of the DVES families to do their best to transport their children to school. We are also asking everyone to help out their friends and neighbors that might be in need during this unusual time. I know this isn’t ideal but it was the best option to avoid having all students in grades K-12 learn online.”

To avoid traffic tie-ups caused by so many parents picking their children up at once, DVES will hold a staggered dismissal at the end of each day, Bell said.

Bell also cancelled one of the late buses at the middle schools and high school.

“This could all change if we have more employees unable to come to school,” he said on a post on Tuesday.

Parents of high school and middle school students were permitted to drive their kids to school late in the afternoon on Tuesday to retrieve items from their lockers.

Julie Ewald, secretary to Dr. Bell, would not say whether the bus drivers were vaccinated or experiencing breakthrough infections. She did not say if the school was doing contact tracing.

Her reply said, “Today is considered a snow day since we didn’t have enough drivers to open school. We are exploring all options for the rest of this week and will announce it to the community later today once finalized.”

Caseloads at the school are going up: 88 in September, 100 in October, 138 in November. There were 22 cases in the first three days of December. The school district allows parents to opt their children out of wearing masks without medical proof that the masks endanger their well-being. But the judge who decided the case allowing such a waiver said the school must still protect all of the children under its care from harm, including against Covid.

Dr. Doug Manion, a local infectious disease specialist, and Milford Mayor Sean Strub say Pike County continues to lag behind the state and region in vaccinations, and that at 20 percent its positive test rate is extremely high. They will discuss the DV situation at their next “Ask the Doctor” Zoom session on Monday, Dec. 13, at 5 p.m., as well as provide the latest information about the Omicron variant.

Parents scramble

Parents bear much of the brunt when schools abruptly change plans.

“There is no remote option that works for my daughter or for a lot of other special education students,” said DV parent Tamson Culver. “My daughter is visually impaired and can’t use a Chromebook. Every day that school is remote is another day that my daughter isn’t being educated.”

Culver was pleased when her daughter’s teacher reached out to her Tuesday to say that, since no one would be in the building, would she like to send her daughter to school? The girl planned to go to school on Wednesday.

Kelly Johnson, mother of three across three schools in the district, praised “bus driver Belinda.”

“She is a great bus driver and always has masks for the kids that don’t have masks,” she said. “Most kids do have masks.”

John Johnson, Kelly’s husband, said the district does not have an emergency plan.

“At the end of December last year, we had 13 cases, I believe,” he said. “We are up 3,000 percent from last year. Now they operate without a plan or a vision of what to do, beyond keeping the doors open, and they can’t even do that. We are two years into a pandemic, and there has never been a consistent plan, except to keep the doors open.”

Parent Meg Rosenfeld said, “It is not surprising to any responsible community member, who has been concerned about Covid-19 safety in schools, that we are now facing school closures without a contingency plan ready and waiting to be implemented.”

The outbreak caused a bevy of cancellations, reschedulings, and relocations:
The holiday concert at Delaware Valley Middle School by the seventh and eighth grade band, chorus, and orchestra on Tuesday evening, was rescheduled from Tuesday to Wednesday.
The school board meeting, originally scheduled to be held in the administration building at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8, will now be held in the high school auditorium
The Curriculum Committee meeting scheduled for Dec. 9 has been canceled due to the illness of several key committee participants. The committee will now meet on Jan. 20, 2022, at 5 p.m., prior to the 6 p.m. school board meeting. The location is to be determined.