RPS experiencing bus driver, staffing shortages due to COVID

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(ABC 6 News) – Amid many different staffing shortages within Rochester Public Schools such as food service, teachers, and clerical staff, RPS notified parents Friday that they’re low on bus drivers.

Monday Interim Superintendent Kent Pekel explained the district hasn’t had to make any major route or start-time changes yet but felt it was important to let parents know it’s a possibility.

"There may be a time where we exhaust all our resources," said Jon Goetz, location manager at First Student in Rochester.

The bus company works with RPS and said they had to cover 28 routes on Friday — largely because drivers called out with COVID-19 or had a close exposure. The company sometimes calls in trained office staff and technicians to help drive the buses.

"We all come together out here when it’s a challenging time," Goetz said.

Pekel says he tries to avoid making district-wide changes when it comes to staffing challenges and COVID-19.

"The one place where the system-level transformation might be needed — meaning the district as a whole — is transportation. This is probably our number one risk area for achieving our goal of keeping schools safe and open this year," Pekel said.

The superintendent confirmed that the omicron variant is widely affecting Rochester Public Schools.

"Either staff are testing positive, or they have a kid at home whose positive, or they were a close contact," he said.

And believes that there may be a point where staffing shortages impact some students’ ability to learn in-person at school. RPS is asking if you are assigned a bus route but are not using the transportation service, to call or email the office so you can be removed from the list.

"It just gives us good information so we can work this thing right now," Goetz said.

The district’s resounding message is that the only way students, staff, bus drivers, and parents get through these difficult times is together. There are no altered routes yet, but the district wants people to be prepared in case that happens. It will communicate any changes through phone calls, emails and text.