AMSTERDAM — Students in the Greater Amsterdam School District in grades 6-12 will all learn remotely Friday and Monday after a bus driver tested positive for COVID-19 and the district’s transportation contractor reported a driver shortage as others await negative test results.
Amsterdam Superintendent Rich Ruberti on Thursday said the Schenectady County and Montgomery County health departments were working to identify anyone at risk of exposure, but that as of Thursday around 4 p.m. no students had been told to quarantine as a result of the positive case.
Other drivers, though, could not come into work, district officials were told Thursday by Student Transportation of America, the contractor that manages the district’s transportation operation, Ruberti said in an interview.
In a statement Thursday night, Jen Holzapfel, a spokesperson for the transportation company, confirmed that one of the company’s Amsterdam drivers had tested positive and was self-quarantining for 14 days and that other drivers were being tested “out of an abundance of caution” and would not return to work until after they were cleared by doctors.
The spokesperson said that no other Capital Region districts were affected by the Amsterdam situation.
“STA is dedicated to the health and safety of our employees, passengers and customers, while remaining committed to safely transporting students to and from school,” according to the statement, which also highlighted safety protocols including drivers wearing masks at all times and frequent cleaning.
The lack of drivers forced the Amsterdam district to limit its bus routes and the grades of students that could attend school in person, leaving all of the district’s middle and high school students to learn remotely for at least two school days. Since many of the district’s students rotate one day in person and one day remote, all students will miss at least one in-person school day, instead learning virtually that day.
The company’s statement said they hoped “to be back to a full schedule by next week.”
In a communication to district families, Ruberti detailed the schedule change and reported the district had been notified by the transportation vendor Thursday afternoon about “an unusual shortage” of drivers. The communication, which was posted to the district website, did not disclose the positive test reported to the district, because it was not a district employee and they were following the lead of health agencies, according to district spokesman John Noetzel.
“Please be patient as there may be some unexpected delays,” Ruberti wrote in the message to families, referring to the bus routes that will be running for younger students.
Ruberti said he did not yet know how long the immediate shortage would last or whether students would definitely return to school Tuesday. He said further communications would be forthcoming.
Ruberti said he was hopeful students wouldn’t be asked to isolate, even if they rode on the bus driven by someone who ultimately tested positive, because of the precautions utilized on the bus and the fact that students spent only short periods of time walking past the driver.
The bus routes for elementary students will remain the same, and special education students in out-of-district placements will still receive transportation, according to the district message to families. Transportation to the HFM BOCES campus will not be provided Friday and Monday. Teachers will still be reporting to school buildings to teach their classes virtually.