The Superintendent of the Rome City School District set the record straight on Thursday in regards to their plan going forward with in-person learning, and their current school bus driver shortage.

Peter Blake told WIBX's Keeler Show that school will be in session beginning next Tuesday, following the Columbus Day holiday. Rome is on full remote learning this week because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the bus garage, and as a result, an extreme shortage of bus drivers.

Blake said a parent survey was put out to give the district an idea of how many students were able to get to classes without a bus ride. He said it gives them an idea of what they're facing going forward, in the event that another outbreak occurs. School districts are required by law to provide transportation for students, to and from school. However, many districts with bus driver shortages have asked parents to help get their children to school, allowing for fewer drivers needed during COVID.

The bus driver shortage continues to be a major problem throughout New York State, and recently Gov. Kathy Hochul talked about the possibility of using National Guard members as drivers, especially for districts like Rome that are in a transportation crisis because of COVID-19.

NY Senator Joe Griffo called for lowering the age of CDL licensed drivers from 21 to 18, and asked the governor to loosen restrictions that clog the system for drivers with a permit, taking their test to become licensed. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente also called on the governor last week to provide emergency funding for districts with a shortage of bus drivers, as a means to offer incentives to hire more.

Blake said the problem of a COVID outbreak combined with an already short bus driver staff made for a worst-case scenario, which forced the district to go remote this week. He also called on the relief of a restriction for bus drivers that currently requires them to be capable of performing mechanical work on busses, in order to pass their test to drive bus. Blake said school districts have bus mechanics for that, and it is no longer the responsibility of bus drivers to perform those duties.

This week, a letter to the editor on WIBX950.com questioned the district's plan going forward when it comes to special needs students. Blake said going forward, if the situation were to arise where the school was forced into remote again, the plan is to have special needs students taught in-person.

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