SPALDING COUNTY, Ga. - Beginning later this week, all students within the Griffin-Spalding County School District will transition to remote learning due to operational issues after losing multiple bus drivers to COVID-19.
According to school officials, students will attend classes in person on September 7 before temporarily switching to virtual learning on September 8.
During this time, district leaders say they'll look at the operational protocol on their buses.
"Whether it be just doubling down on the analytics, whether it be ensuring that people are clear with regards to how to clean buses, when to clean buses, ventilation efforts," Superintendent Keith Simmons said. "Whatever the case may be we're gonna have to make sure everyone is on the same page."
The shortage of drivers due to COVID and other reasons has impacted school bus routes.
The district said bus routes were combined where possible and many drivers began running multiple routes to help transport children.
At least nine bus drivers were out August 30 due to positive COVID-19 cases, officials said.
The school district confirmed Monday that another transportation staff member died on Sunday, marking the third death of a staff member over the course of two weeks.
"Three transportation staff members have passed away in the last two weeks. Our hearts are heavy and our thoughts and prayers are with friends, family, and coworkers. This has created strain and a disruption to transportation operations.," the Griffin-Spalding County School District said in a statement.
According to the most recent numbers from GSCS, 41 students and 13 staff members currently have COVID-19.
The district says there are currently no transportation staff members with the deadly virus.
"I think the mitigation efforts that we have in place are sufficient. I'm not sure what's taking place on our buses and so we have to figure out what it is that's leading to these outcomes we're seeing with some of our drivers that we're not seeing with our students and staff," Simmons explained.
During the school board meeting Tuesday, Some parents demanded the district permanently bring back the virtual option they had last school year.
"You did offer a virtual solution but it was only to withdraw your kid from the school system and make them an online student where they cannot partake in any activities of the school," one mother said. "That's why you have 98 percent of kids in virtual school right now. That's why we have this whole issue of bus drivers getting sick cause there's so many people and there's no social distancing."
Another parent, Chasity Nichols, said "they have the funding to do so I don't really what's keeping them from going forward with that. I'm just looking for a little more honesty from the school district."
But Superintendent Simmons said that virtual option is not a possibility at this time.
Officials said they are actively recruiting and training new drivers.
The district has offered health benefits, retirement, and a $500 signing bonus, in addition to incentives to keep the drivers already on staff.
Remote learning is expected to continue through at least September 10.
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