'Critical shortage' of bus drivers at Dansville

District details return of students, high school sports, COVID numbers

The Express

DANSVILLE — Kindergarten students at the Dansville Primary School returned to school full-time, five days a week last Monday as the district works through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dansville Superintendent Paul Alioto touched on a range of topics in a community update, including transportation issues, high school athletics and students returning to physical activity after a positive COVID-19 test.

While kindergarteners are back to learning on-campus full-time, the district is maintaining a remote kindergarten section for the rest of the year for those who prefer that option.

Meanwhile, the district is now targeting the return of first and second graders to five-day in-person learning. The district anticipates starting first grade on Monday, March 1 and second grade on Monday, March 15. The district plans to install more polycarbonate table and desk barriers for the returning children.

Daily health screening applications for parents to use each day have gone out to kindergarten parents and a survey for first and second grade parents will go out soon. 

ALIOTO

Bus driver shortage 

As more students return to in-school learning, the district’s biggest challenge, Alioto said, is a “critical shortage” of school bus drivers. 

“Despite competitive pay rates, good benefits and regional advertising, few if any people are applying,” Alioto said. “Many of our neighboring districts are faced with the same challenge. The driver shortage, when combined with passenger restrictions, makes it difficult to get all of our students to school, even in this hybrid model. As a result of the driver shortage and the reduced carrying capacity of buses, we might be unable to bring all students in together once 1st and 2nd graders return.” 

To address this potential problem, the district plans to send a few buses out a second time throughout the village to pick up students and deliver them closer to 8 a.m.

"We prefer for all students to arrive and enter buildings between 7:40 and 7:50 a.m.,” Alioto said. “We will know more about our capacity once we know how many students are riding our buses. So 1st and 2nd grade parents, please respond to our surveys. We are asking all parents who are able to drop off and pick up their children to please do so.” 

Return of high school sports 

Dansville athletics returned to practice on Monday as New York state and local health departments cleared the way for “high risk” winter sports such as basketball and wrestling to resume. 

Modified boys basketball and wrestling begin on Saturday Feb. 6 in Dansville. Cheerleading, volleyball, modified girls basketball and football have been approved for what is being called a “fall 2 season” to begin in March.

“There are many new rules that we will have to follow,” Alioto said. “More information will be provided as were fine our plan for athletics.” 

Alioto also addressed the concerns of parents as sports deemed “high risk” by the state resume while other school activities are limited. 

“Reasonable people might ask... ‘If kids can compete on a court or mat where they are so close that they can name their opponent’s chewing gum, why can’t all students return to school and sit within 6 feet of one another 5 days a week?’ Why can’t a wrestler who grapples with a teammate during practice sit next to that same teammate on the school bus?’ ‘If kids can compete within 6 feet of one another, why can’t student musicians have a concert and play within 12 feet of one another?’

“Believe me when I tell you that I have asked these questions and, with my colleagues in other districts, have pushed these absurdities up the chain to state officials,” Alioto said. “The truth is that there aren’t always good answers to these questions because many of the rules in one setting aren’t applied to other settings. For our part, we simply try to live within the established rules, advocate for common sense and safely provide every opportunity that we can to our children and young people.

“So, for the time being, we are very happy for our student athletes and we will protect them to the best of our ability while working to preserve this fragile opportunity to compete. We will continue to advocate for all of our students including our artists and musicians and performers.”

COVID-19 rates 

Current quarantine and positive rates are still trending down in the district. At latest report, the district had three students quarantined in the primary school and the elementary school, with one at ASAP and 10 students quarantined in the high school. Five employees at the high school were in quarantine, with one student and one employee testing positive. 

Numbers in Livingston County and within the 14437 zip code have also decreased compared to several weeks ago. 

Parents of children who have returned to school after positively testing for COVID-19 and quarantining are requested to return a health clearance from a primary care physician to the child’s school nurse when the child is ready to return to physical activity. Clearance means permission to ​fully​ participate in PE class, active recess and athletics.

“Vaccinations are being provided and more are on the way. Things are opening up,” Alioto said. “The days are getting longer and the light at the end of the tunnel grows a little brighter.”