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UPSD Suspends Bus Transportation
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            COVID-19 has forced the Upper Perkiomen School District to suspend student transportation through at least the end of the week. The recent diagnosis of three bus drivers at Coventry Transportation forced the company to temporarily close. The closure means that beginning Wednesday, Nov. 11 through Friday, Nov. 13, the district will be unable to provide any transportation to district buildings, Western Montgomery Career & Technology Center, non-public, charter and out-of-district schools.

            Schools in the district, as well as the Western Center will remain open as scheduled for the students who have been attending those entities in-person. In-person attendance for the remainder of this week will require students being transported to school by family members or other means, according to a Nov. 10 email message from Superintendent Allyn Roche to the district community.

            Along with the district, Coventry will continue to work with the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, and will reassess on Friday Nov. 13 if a closure extending into next week is necessary. We will continue to update our community as we receive more information from both Coventry and public health officials.

            Students who have been attending in-person, but are physically unable to get to their school should contact their teacher to see if any alternative instructional plans can be made during this time, according to the message. No students will be marked absent if they cannot attend school in-person and they should contact their teacher for more details.

            Approximately all of the 38 vehicles were scheduled to run this week were operating Monday Nov. 9, according to district spokesperson Nicole Gum. They were transporting students with special needs to three buildings in the district, as well as students to the western center.

            The closure will allow employees at the bus depot – located at 1221 Water Street in Upper Hanover – to allow for proper contact tracing, and to complete full disinfecting of their facility and vehicles, according to the superintendent's message.

            Supervisors of Coventry Transportation were made aware that two employees who tested positive for the novel coronavirus last reported to work on Nov. 6, according to Trudy Skinner, a regional vice president of G&L Student Transportation, located in Washington Township.  In her email message received at 3:59 p.m. Tuesday, Skinner wrote that the infections have not impacted the company's ability to transfer students to school, and that the company is monitoring the situation daily.

            "All close contacts have been issued to quarantine and are being sent for testing.  Employees are responsible to self-report symptoms and stay home until they have consulted their health professional for further guidance," Skinner wrote.

            In an email message provided Tuesday afternoon by district spokesperson Nicole Gum, Roche informed the school community that any students that were determined to be a "close contact" with the positive individuals have already been instructed to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days, regardless of whether they test negative. The superintendent also asked families currently utilizing district transportation to stay tuned for more details, should the need arise to alter bus routes or services.

            "At this time, it is not yet clear what the implications are for the broader Coventry employee base, or how this may or may not affect district bus routes that are currently running," Roche wrote. "We will continue to clean and disinfect our buses, as appropriate."

            Around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, the superintendent sent out a second message announcing the third positive test and the suspension of bus services "out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of their employees as well as the staff, students and families of the UPSD."

            Officials from the bus company were informed of the third positive test of an employee late Tuesday. The current three-day closure to allow for proper contact tracing, and to complete full disinfecting of our facility and vehicles, according to a separate message from Skinner received at 7:47 a.m. Wednesday.

            "We will continue to work with the Montgomery Health Department and the district and re-asses and communicate on Friday if the closure for the following week is needed at that time," she wrote.

            All bus company employees were trained in health and safety protocols – based on information gathered from multiple sources, including the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania PA Department of Health, Montgomery Health Department, Upper Perkiomen School District's Health and Safety Plan and industry specific associations National School Transportation Association and the Pennsylvania School Bus Association – upon return to work this fall, according to the most recent message. Skinner also wrote that they were supplied all the needed PPE and disinfectant materials.

            "At this time we are continuing the contact tracing with the county health department and keeping in contact with our employees, whilst keeping good wishes and prayers for those affected by this virus," she wrote.





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