Brunswick’s superintendent of schools informed parents, students, and staff on Sunday that the district would be forced into 100 percent remote instruction effective Monday after several staff members in the transportation department were placed in quarantine because of the coronavirus.

Phillip Potenziano, superintendent of the Brunswick School Department

Superintendent Phillip J. Potenziano notified the Brunswick community that all schools and grades will remain in remote learning mode on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the plan being to return to in-person learning at all schools on Thursday. The announcement that schools would be switching over to remote learning comes at the conclusion of spring vacation week.

Having to place seven staff members of the transportation department in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure left the district without enough bus drivers to provide safe transportation for its students, Potenziano said. The announcement about remote learning came just just three days after the superintendent confirmed that there had been a new COVID-19 case at Brunswick High School, contributing to what he characterized as an outbreak totaling four cases.

“We have had approximately seven staff from the transportation department that needs to be quarantined and thus do not have enough drivers to provide safe transportation,” Potenziano said in a statement posted on the district’s website Sunday. “This is a disappointing decision to make, but I have only done so after exhausting every other option. We are awaiting negative test results, and we cannot guarantee that we have enough drivers to transport students safely any sooner than this Thursday.”

Potenziano said that each school would provide more information to families and staff as soon as possible. Any questions regarding remote student learning should be directed to each school’s administrative staff, he said.

“Thank you for your flexibility and support as we move through these difficult times,” Potenziano said.

Brunswick is not the only district coping with a shortage of bus drivers, who have either tested positive or have been exposed to the virus. Earlier this month, Lewiston’s superintendent went to 100 percent remote learning for one week after seven drivers tested positive and Scarborough reported that several members of its transportation staff had tested positive. Families in Scarborough, though, have been helping by driving students to and from school, the district superintendent told News Center Maine.

The impact of COVID-19 on school staff goes back several months. In January, Buxton-based School Administrative District 6 moved to remote learning for one week due to shortages of bus drivers and mechanics. About half of the district’s staff of 50 bus drivers and a half-dozen mechanics were in quarantine as a result of positive cases.

Even before the pandemic, Maine schools were facing staff shortages in key areas such as bus drivers and special education teachers. Eighty-six percent of districts that responded to a Maine Department of Education survey in late 2019 indicated they were facing bus driver shortages because of low pay, the time and cost involved in licensing, and the fact the job is often part-time.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.