Three out of the seven quarantined bus drivers have received negative COVID-19 test results as of Monday afternoon, according to Superintendent Phil Potenziano, who still believes in-person instruction will resume Thursday.

Potenziano announced Sunday that all schools would transition to fully remote learning through Wednesday. The decision was made due to a lack of bus drivers, as one individual is in isolation after testing positive and seven drivers were in quarantine due to possible COVID-19 exposure.

According to Potenziano, Brunswick schools have 17 bus routes and 18 drivers, not including transportation for special education students. Despite working with the transportation department, efforts to organize substitute drivers in time for Monday fell short.

“We just couldn’t do it, the number was too big,” Potenziano said in an interview Monday. “There is not enough substitute bus drivers out there, period.”

Potenziano said that the potential exposure of the bus drivers was unrelated to the current COVID-19 outbreak at Brunswick High School and resulted from close contact among adults.

“The irony of this case is if it had happened a week from now this would all be a none-issue because all of these drivers would have been considered fully vaccinated,” said Brunswick Junior High Nurse Jennifer Bowdish, who has been working with the state on the bus issue. “We’re in this funny spot right now where a lot of people are getting vaccine, but they’re not fully vaccinated.”

Before Potenziano’s announcement on Sunday, all grade levels were scheduled to increase in-person learning from two to four-days a week beginning Monday.

Brunswick High School student Margaret Chingos said that while she was excited to “gain that sense of normalcy” and was disappointed to hear the news, she ultimately thinks that shutting down the school in this circumstance was the right decision.

“I’m really proud of the Brunswick School Department for making this call and committing to their promise to provide equitable access to education for all Brunswick students,” Chingos said in an interview.

Not including specialized transportation, the Brunswick School Department averages 345 students per day being transported on the bus system. Potenziano noted this number will increase significantly once the school implements the increased in-person learning.

Brunswick School Board Chairperson William Thompson echoed that the decision was really the only option.

“It was a decision out of necessity more than anything else,” Thompson said.

Potenziano said he is pretty confident that the department will be ready for four-days a week, in-person learning come Thursday.

“I can’t say 100%,” Potenziano said. “Confident is a strong word, with this virus and this pandemic, things change on a dime.”

Potenziano said that various other school districts in Maine, such as Lewiston, have dealt with similar issues over the course of the pandemic.

“This is a disappointment,” Potenziano added, noting the disruption the decision made for working parents who are juggling childcare.

COVID-19 cases are continuing to go up in the Brunswick School Department, with 14 active cases reported as of Monday. There have been 66 cumulative cases reported department-wide.

According to the Maine CDC, in Cumberland County there have been 15,876 cases of COVID-19 and 188 deaths. Statewide, 60,005 COVID-19 cases have been reported alongside 772 deaths.

On April 18, Gov. Janet Mills announced that half of Mainers 16 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.


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