A total of 33 Oswego School District 308 bus drivers were absent Sept. 21, with 24 calling in sick and others not calling in at all, Theresa Komitas, the district’s director of communications and public relations, confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
Komitas added that 15 school bus monitors also called in sick Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Komitas confirmed that district officials had not been notified of any resignations among the district’s transportation staff.
Komitas said the district has requested information on the reason or reasons for the absences from the leaders of the district’s transportation union, the Oswego Transportation Association. OTA officials have not responded to requests for comment from the Oswego Ledger.
A state-imposed COVID-19 vaccination mandate went into effect Sept. 19 for all district employees. Those who opt not to become vaccinated will be subject to COVID-19 testing.
When asked if the absences were due to the statewide vaccine mandate, Komitas said in an email statement that yesterday was the first day testing was offered to staff and they have until next Monday (Sept .27) to provide proof of a test this week if they haven’t provided proof of vaccination.
“I can’t say that it’s tied to the call out of the 24 drivers and 15 monitors this morning,” she added.
The large number of absences forced district officials to cancel in-person learning for the district’s high schools and junior high schools, for students enrolled in the district’s Transitions/Pathways program, and for junior high and high school students in the district’s GOAL program.
Elementary schools, however, were open for in-person attendance at normal times. In a statement posted on the district’s website early Tuesday morning, parents and guardians were advised that buses would still run “but there will likely be large delays” and absences would be excused.
Early learning classes were also canceled on Tuesday due to the bus driver shortage, with the exception of the deaf and hard of hearing program. Out of district placement students still attended school as normal with transportation not impacted. Elementary instruction for East View Academy students was in person and with bus service.
Transportation has been a concern throughout OSD 308 since the start of the 2021-2022 school year. The first day of school for students enrolled in the Early Learners program was delayed by several days and bus routes across the district were consolidated due to an “extreme” shortage among drivers from outside companies contracted by the district, according to the district.
The consolidation of routes led to “more students on a bus, as well as possibly longer bus rides,” a letter from Chief Financial Officer John Petzke to families read.
As of Sept. 21, OSD 308 has 33 bus driver vacancies, seven crossing guard vacancies, eight bus monitor vacancies, one open dispatcher position and one open mechanic position.
This story will be updated.