Bus driver shortage forces Vancouver schools to go remote

January 12, 2022 GMT

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — A shortage of bus drivers caused by a surge of the highly contagious COVID-19 omicron variant has forced Vancouver Public Schools in southwest Washington to switch to a rotating schedule of remote instruction in its middle and high schools, making it the latest Pacific Northwest school district to suffer impacts from the pandemic’s spread.

Three groups of schools will take turns doing online instruction for one week each in a rotation that starts Tuesday and goes until Jan. 27, The Columbian reported.

The move comes as the district faces a sharp increase in staff absences due to illness or quarantine measures. Vancouver Public Schools is offering a $500 hiring bonus for substitute bus drivers who meet the district’s requirements through June 15.

The district, which hopes that full-time in-person learning can return to all schools in February, also had to shut down its testing site this week when test kits ran out, the newspaper reported.

The district in southwest Washington is the latest in the Pacific Northwest to deal with the fallout from omicron. The Washington Department of Health reported 13,733 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, according to The Seattle Times, but data on deaths and hospitalizations wasn’t updated Tuesday because of a data systems interruption, health officials said.

Oregon reported 8,040 new presumptive or confirmed cases Tuesday and 35 deaths.

A number of districts Portland and its suburbs switched to remote learning or have adjusted their schedules due to COVID-19, and Jefferson County School District shut down a K-8 school on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs reservation in central Oregon this week out of concern for the tribe.

Ashland School District in southern Oregon announced Tuesday that one class at the John Muir Outdoor School went virtual on Monday and its high school will go to online learning on Thursday.

In Seattle, classes were canceled Monday and Tuesday at one high school and one elementary school because of staffing shortages and Seattle Public Schools leaders are weighing whether to bring back remote instruction temporarily, The Seattle Times reported Tuesday.

Portland has shifted at least four of its schools to remote instruction this week and Parkrose School District, which also serves part of Oregon’s largest city, also shifted to remote learning.

The Tigard-Tualatin School District announced Tuesday that they would shift to remote learning for two high schools and three middle schools starting Thursday through Jan. 21.