Several Conn. schools closed or started late Monday due to COVID-19


WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — With school districts returning from holiday break, there were a handful of delays and cancellations. Districts are navigating the recent spike in COVID-19 cases along with a significant number of teacher and staff absences.

Drive your kids to school, if you can. That is the advice from the superintendent of schools in Waterbury after COVID-19-related staffing shortages caused long delays for school buses.

Omicron is driving the COVID-19 rates up, which means the number of bus drivers is going down. About two dozen in Waterbury could not work Monday.

“Our last delivery was at approximately 9:50 or 10:00 this morning that all of our kids were delivered by a bus,” Dr. Verna Ruffin, the Waterbury Schools Superintendent said.

That’s about an hour later than usual. Fortunately, a lot of parents drove their kids.

“The school buses were late,” parent Kayla Flores said. “I knew it was going to happen. I got the email yesterday and, you know, I just brought my daughters to school.”

It may be a new year, but the bus driver shortage is an old problem, so some parents have been doing the drive for months.

“They tried the first week of school and it was just delays, so it was just easier for me to start taking them and just fitting that in my daily routine,” parent Edris Lewis said.

The driver shortage is not just a Waterbury problem.

“What we actually experienced this morning was about an 18% callout rate,” New Haven Schools spokesman Justin Harmon said.

He said Elm City parents are also encouraged to drive their kids. The bus delays today were not as bad as expected, thanks to some help.

“We have been somewhat fortunate in that some of the neighboring districts that do not have school today have been able to lend us drivers and that has helped us mitigate the problem,” Harmon explained.

No such luck back in Waterbury. In addition to the bus delays, the district had more than 340 staff members out sick today. Yet somehow, every school opened to students, as usual.

“Everyone here just amazes me about how resilient they are because this is a real challenging time across the nation,” Ruffin said.

In her message to parents, Ruffin wrote this issue is not going to clear up in a couple of days. Parents should be prepared for the bussing delays to last at least two weeks.

Additionally, all extracurricular activities are canceled for this week.

Classes for all PreK-12 in-district programs are canceled on Monday, Jan. 3 and Tues., Jan. 4, amid an increase of cases within the community and a shortage of transportation drivers, staff, classroom teachers, and substitute teachers. The school district said it would be unable to transport students and maintain social distancing safely.

Classes will not be in session on Monday, Jan. 3, and Tuesday, Jan. 4, and will be treated as Inclement Weather Days.

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