Schools in Rome move away following increase in COVID cases among bus drivers

ROME, NY – The City of Rome School District is withdrawing for a week following a cluster of COVID-19 cases among First Student school bus drivers.

“Just to have the shocking news the day before that our kids won’t be in school the rest of the week, and then the next week it’s devastating for us and our kids, who were so excited and happy to be. back to school, “says Emily Wilkinsky, a parent from Rome. She wishes the district had considered other options before moving directly to distance learning.

Keith Hunt // WKTV

“We have four or five buses that come to Ridge Mills every day. I know a lot of families whose children take the bus and they would be happy to bring their children, release those buses, bring them to other children who are on the bus. have no choice. to drive to school, “Wilkinsky says.” I also have room in my car and would gladly take the kids to school and my brothers, all of our kids. go to the same school and they say the same thing. They’d go get other kids along the way, you know, just explore other options. This is all we would like. “

Superintendent Peter Blake says there has been a “significant increase” in the number of bus drivers testing positive for COVID, adding to an existing shortage that has already led to late pick-ups and drop-offs throughout the district.

“Right now, between district staff and contractor staff, we are approaching 20 of about 70 drivers,” Superintendent Blake said.

The district has decided to move students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to full distance education from October 1 to 11. The plan is to return to in-person learning on Tuesday, October 12th.

Teachers will continue to come to work and teach virtually from their classrooms.

All pre-K programs will stay in person as these students do not take a bus to school.

Student-athletes will be contacted individually regarding transportation to and from practices and games.

Blake says all extracurricular activities will take place in schools during Distance Learning Week. The superintendent has contacted the teachers’ union to explore other options, given the unpredictable nature of the situation.

“Most likely the winter season won’t be a very smooth boating experience for any of us,” said Blake.

Late Thursday night, the school district posted a link to a survey that parents must complete if they are willing to drive their child to and from school to help solve the bus problem. Click on here to complete the survey.

Following the Rome District decision on Thursday, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente wrote a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul asking for help to help keep schools open.

The letter reads: “I ask you to take immediate action to help alleviate this crisis. Whether it’s deploying the National Guard to drive buses or forcing school districts to change hours. “openness to stay open, I am open to discuss any valid solution. I ask you to take action to prioritize the education of our children. For too long in this pandemic, their needs have been treated as secondary. “

Read Blake’s full letter below: