COVID curbs school bus transportation in Johnston; student transport service now restored



Many members of Johnston’s already depleted pool of eligible and willing school bus drivers are now isolated in quarantine.

Earlier this week, suddenly, parents who rely on school bus transportation in Johnston to get their kids to school had to scramble to find another option.

Then, on Wednesday evening, the district announced the problem was rectified and bus service would return Thursday.

“(Tuesday) afternoon we were informed that some of our bus drivers were close contacts,” Assistant Superintendent Julie-anne Zarrella said Wednesday morning. “We reported this news to RIDOH and they instructed us to where we are now. We are doing our very best to keep our students safe and in school. This situation was very unexpected.”

Zarrella wrote parents with “an important update” late Wednesday evening.

“I am happy to share good news with everyone,” Zarrella wrote. “Beginning tomorrow, all buses will be scheduled to run as usual. We are safely able to transport ALL Johnston students for the remainder of this year.”

“Students attending St. Rocco’s and Trinity will still require their own transportation until further notice,” the message to parents continued. “Thank you to Durham Bus, JPS Facilities, Nurse Valerie, our Administrators, and the Johnston Police for their help in expediting this process and keeping our students safe. Lastly, thank you to our parents and guardians for your understanding while we conducted our COVID protocols.”

Parents lined up outside open Johnston schools Wednesday morning to drop off students.

The Johnston Police Department stepped up to help keep the situation running as smoothly as possible.

School administrators expected the problem to linger past the Holiday break.

On Wednesday night, Zarrella was relieved the situation was solved.

“We are good to go tomorrow,” she said. “I’m thrilled!”

The Sarah Dyer Barnes Elementary School in Johnston closed this week after tests results revealed more than 20 cases of COVID-19 in students and staff.

District administrators are coping with multiple staffing issues, virus outbreaks and contact tracing, and now the transportation dilemma.

Since the start of the school year, the district has struggled to hire and keep school bus drivers.

“We were already short four drivers, and now have 13 drivers out due to COVID protocols/quarantine,” Zarrella said Wednesday morning.. “Hence, the recent outcome. This morning ran very smoothly in spite of the lack of busing. We are hoping dismissals run just as well.”



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