Oswego District 308 school bus drivers call out of work, sending some students to remote learning

Ravi Baichwal Image
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Dozens of Oswego school bus drivers call out of work
Oswego District 308 school bus called out of work Tuesday, hobbling the school commute and even sending some students home for remote learning.

OSWEGO, Ill. (WLS) -- Dozens of school bus drivers in Oswego called out of work Tuesday, hobbling the school commute and even sending some students home for remote learning.

Families received phone calls early Tuesday morning when the district found out around 4 a.m. that there would not be enough bus drivers to get all the students to school in District 308.

About 1/3 of the 100 school bus employees did not show up, both drivers and monitors, and there's no clear reason why.

"I got the call and what was going on, you know, they didn't really give us a reason at first and then we found out that everybody's gonna be remote," said Marcy Turnquist, Oswego parent. "We just kind of went with the flow.

In the state's seventh largest school district, with some 17,500 students, officials prioritized getting elementary school students to school as they did not have a remote learning plan in place. By contrast, contingency plans are in place for junior high school and high schools students, who all have Chromebooks to keep them connected.

Still, everyone was caught off guard, and not particularly happy.

"The teachers were surprised, they didn't really know what they were going to do, they didn't know what they were going to teach us today because they already had plans for in school," said Cameran Guzman, junior high school student.

District officials though they would have more drivers back on duty, but were not sure. There is speculation the absences could be related to the governor's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, but the district said drivers do not have to show proof of vaccination or submit to a testing regimen until next week.

Like other school districts around the state, District 308 has been short-staffed for bus drivers since the beginning of the year, reflective of a larger labor shortage.

In an email to parents Tuesday night, Superintendent John Sparlin said, "At this point we anticipate a normal school day." But a similar situation could crop up again, he said, and parents should be prepared to transport students, including their youngest, to class, or if they're older to have them connect remotely.

Elementary school students unable to get a ride would be provided make-up material. Upperclassmen not participating in remote learning would be given an unexcused absence.

"I would definitely like to avoid remote learning," said Kristin Parr, parent. "I think kids need to be back in school, I think they're doing better back in school."

"I think tomorrow will be better, teachers will be more prepared, but I am hoping we are able to get back because remote is definitely not ideal," said Jacqueline Enghdal, student.

The first communications that school would not go as planned came out in the middle of the night, and it's not out of the question for Wednesday, so it could be an uneasy night for parents and students.