Mat-Su

Bus routes suspended at numerous Mat-Su schools through the week as COVID-19 spread causes driver shortage

School buses were canceled Monday for routes serving nine schools in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District after COVID-19 cases caused a driver shortage expected to trigger bus cancellations all week.

The cancellations “may continue into the future,” the district announced Monday afternoon in an email to families.

The district was alerted Sunday by First Student, which contracts busing for the area, that there would be a driver shortage, said Jillian Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the school district. Some drivers had tested positive and others needed to quarantine, Morrissey said.

Administrators planned to look at school attendance Monday morning to see how the cancellations may have impacted students, Morrissey said. Any bus-related absences are excused by the district.

The district released a schedule of route cancellations through Friday in the Monday afternoon update.

“To spread the impact out among the District, schools will remain open, but the Administration will institute rolling transportation cancellations for regular education bus service,” the update said.

By Monday evening, 20 of the 47 Mat-Su schools were reporting a total of 55 confirmed COVID-19 cases after four days of school, according to the district’s website.

It was not clear how many drivers had contracted COVID-19, and Morrissey said First Student is not required to disclose that information to the district. A call to the company was not immediately returned Monday.

Mat-Su is the only large district in the Alaska Railbelt that is not requiring masks on buses. Inside schools, masks are not required either, although officials said protocols may change if case numbers continue to rise.

[Mat-Su is state’s only large school district on the Railbelt bucking federal requirement for masks on buses]

“We knew that as things kept coming about that things could affect our operational zones,” Morrissey said. “Our administration is looking at this situation and monitoring and we will let folks know if we need to make adjustments.”

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