Oswego School District 308 announces contingency plans in the event bus driver shortage occurs again

Oswego School District 308 has announced contingency plans in the event a large number of bus drivers and bus monitors are absent as they were on Tuesday, Sept. 21.

Superintendent John Sparlin sent a letter to families the evening of Sept. 21 after 33 bus drivers and 15 bus monitors called in sick early that morning. The large number of absences forced district officials to shift in-person learning for the district’s junior high and high school students to remote learning for the day, while other programs were canceled. The district had enough bus drivers to allow its elementary-age students to attend classes Tuesday in-person.

If a similar situation happens again, Sparlin detailed how the district will respond in the event there is not enough transportation staff available to run buses for any grade level or program and when the district has a reduced amount of transportation staff allowing only select buses to run.

Sparlin explained as follows:

“For any situations where busing may be limited or unavailable, all schools and programs will run in person for those families able to arrange for transportation on their own,” Sparlin wrote. “In either scenario, students on paid tuition attending our schools from other districts will receive transportation from their home district as normal.”

If the district does not have enough transportation staff to run buses for any grade level or program, students in elementary school and early learning programs “should attend in person when transportation can be provided by families,” while those who are unable to secure their own transportation to school will receive make-up work and their absence will be excused.

Students in junior high school, high school, the GOAL program and the Transition/Pathways program, should also attend in person when transportation can be provided by families.

“Students will participate in their classes remotely if they are unable to secure transportation to school. Students who participate in either the in-person class or online via remote learning will not be marked absent,” Sparlin wrote.

In the event the district has a reduced transportation staff, allowing only select bus routes to run, Early Learning students should attend in person if families can provide their own transportation. Students who cannot come to school without bus transportation, will have choice boards prepared and distributed by staff for student use. Special education students unable to attend will be provided with make-up services. Students in the district’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing class will have transportation provided and should attend in person.

Elementary school students “will attend in person and transportation will be provided. Absences will be recorded as they would on a normal school day.”

Junior high, high school, GOAL program and Transition/Pathway program students should attend in person if families are able to provide their own transportation. If students are unable to secure transportation to school, they should participate in remote learning, using Google Meet links provided by their instructors. Students who participate in either in-person classes or remote learning online will not be marked absent.

Elementary students at the East View Academy will attend school in person and receive bus transportation. Junior high and high school students at the EVA can attend in person if families can provide their own transportation. Google Meets links will be shared for students who cannot attend school in person, so that they can participate in remote learning.

Also in his letter, Sparlin thanked families for their “flexibility and cooperation,” adding that “at this point” Sept. 22 is expected to be a normal school day.

He noted that priorities in developing the plans were to “find ways to build multiple scenarios based on transportation staff availability to prepare for future shortages, while maximizing the amount of in-person instruction available to students.”

“We know that students learn best when they are in school and engaged in person with their instructors and peers,” Sparlin added.

“We will provide as much notice as possible should we have to use either of these scenarios,” Sparlin wrote. “In situations like today (Tuesday), where a large number of absences are reported on short notice, we may need to pivot to one of these plans very quickly.”

As of this writing, no official explanation has been given as to the call-outs. Oswego Transportation Association leaders have not responded to requests for comment from the Oswego Ledger or Oswego School District 308.