Richmond residents fill void on bus caused by COVID-19 – Community News
Covid-19

Richmond residents fill void on bus caused by COVID-19

Children line up at Marcia Buker Elementary School in Richmond on Monday while waiting for a ride or chaperones home. There will be no buses until next Tuesday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

RICHMOND — As Richmond residents searched for a ride for their children Monday after Sunday’s announcement that school bus routes were canceled until next Tuesday, officials at Regional School Unit 2 gave little additional detail as to why bus services had been suspended.

“Due to the direct impact of COVID-19 on our workforce, we are unable to offer bus transportation for students from now until Nov. 16,” Karl Matulis, principal of Richmond Middle and High School, wrote in an email to the Kennebec Logbook Monday. .

Matulis did not specify whether “personnel” refers to transportation or school workers.

Jon Hamann, chairman of the board of directors of RSU 2, declined to provide more information.

“With small groups such as bus drivers, disclosing information would violate privacy rules because it makes it easy to distinguish the individuals involved,” Hamann wrote in an email on Monday, adding that the district would not comment further.

RSU 2 Superintendent Tonya Arnold did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

In a classroom setting, students and staff who have been vaccinated or where universal masking is applied, as is the case in RSU 2, do not need to go into quarantine.

According to guidelines from the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the State Department of Education, those who have close contacts on a bus should be quarantined due to the inability to maintain social distancing and the possibility of spending extended periods of time near a person or people infected with COVID-19.

Nearly every district in Maine has faced bus driver shortages and transportation obstacles due to COVID-19.

Parents in RSU 2 were notified of the issue late Sunday afternoon via automated voice messages and a post on the district’s website. The message indicated there were three COVID-19 cases in Richmond, but did not specify whether they were students, school staff or bus crews.

Briana Clifford was one of the parents who offered rides to other kids. Her daughter, Haven, attends Marcia Buker Elementary School, and Clifford offered to pick up at least three students on her way to work.

“I am a pediatric nurse and understand the burden this pandemic has placed on working families, both from a parental and health professional perspective,” Clifford said. “The added stress of worrying about how we will transport our kids to and from school just adds another layer.”

Clifford said she offered rides to take students to school in person, to relieve parental stress and as a simple way to tell the community, “We’ve got this. I am here for you.”

Clifford said she didn’t give rides Monday morning.

Matulis sent a message to families Monday morning acknowledging the hardships the lack of transportation could cause and apologizing for the added burden. Matulis opened the school at 7 a.m., for classes, and kept it open until 4 p.m. so that families had more time to drop off or pick up their children.

Matulis said based on Monday’s attendance that most of the students were at school. If not, they agreed remotely.

Children leave Marcia Buker Elementary School in Richmond on Monday at the end of the school day. There will be no buses on Tuesday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“If there was an alternative, we would certainly pursue it, but at the moment the only option to keep the school open is to ask you to transport your students,” Matulis wrote to families.

Richmond Police Chief James Donnell posted an offer to drive students to school on the Richmond PD Facebook page. Monday morning, Donnell said he had not taken any students to school.

Student Cosette Kilde also offered rides to students.

Kilde, whose younger sister attends Hall-Dale Elementary School, said she understands how some parents can’t get students to and from school. As of Monday morning, Kilde had not yet taken any students to school.

“I decided to offer it because I know that when I was younger I loved going to school,” Kilde said. “I also know that some of these kids don’t learn well at home and need to be in person (at school) in order to learn.”


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