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Comal ISD bus driver shortage leads to parent concern over social distancing, no masks requirement

While school officials say sitting three elementary-age children to a seat is typical during any year, one grandmother is concerned about her second-grader's safety.

COMAL COUNTY, Texas — A bus driver shortage at Comal Independent School District accompanied by several potential consequences is alarming for some parents who are advocating for increased safety measures in a district not requiring masks.

“It’s all about safety and public health. It’s not about what political party you belong to,” said Becky Duran, grandmother of a second-grade student.  

Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim sent a letter to parents Tuesday night detailing the bus driver shortage, just a week before the start of school.

The letter states in part, “Despite actively recruiting bus drivers year-round, we are short as many as 29 drivers at this time. Typically this time of year, we would only be short about 12-15 drivers. This problem is not unique to Comal ISD. Like many other school districts, we also find it a challenge to identify and recruit qualified drivers to fill these important roles.”

Kim’s letter further addresses the consequences of the bus driver shortage.

“As a result, we do not have the number of qualified drivers needed to staff the routes created to serve our anticipated ridership. With fewer drivers, we will need to consolidate some of our routes. That means there may be as many as three students to a bus seat for elementary routes. Social distancing will be difficult. Buses may be delayed, at least through the first few weeks as we make adjustments to meet the demand,” the letter said.

A Comal ISD spokesman emphasized having three students to a seat is typical during any given school year.

The statement pointed out that routes will be adjusted based on ridership within the first few weeks of school. 

The spokesman noted wearing masks is optional and that bus drivers will provide masks to students who need one.

Duran said she is perplexed that masks aren’t required in a community where coronavirus cases are continuing to climb.

“Doesn’t really comply with social distancing and I can tell you my grandson is in a home where people are testing positive, so if he goes on his bus and sits close to two other people, he may very well be infecting others,” she said.

The absence of an online learning option has Duran’s daughter wondering what’s going to happen come next week, who’s faced with weighing safety and her child’s education.

“We’ve been reaching out, we’ve sent emails and we’re going to try a phone call next, but we haven’t got any response back from Comal ISD. She’s very concerned, she doesn’t want to hurt anyone – wants to make the right decisions but this would all be negated if there was an option for online,” Duran said.

Superintendent Kim's letter urged parents to consider driving their children to school or carpooling with neighbors as a result of the bus driver shortage. 

Students are also advised to walk or ride their bike to school if deemed feasible and done so safely. 

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