The Perkiomen Valley School District is the latest district to suspend all bus services for students after a COVID-19 outbreak among its schools' transportation company.
Superintendent Dr. Barbara Russell confirmed over 30 COVID cases have been reported within Student Transportation America, the company the school uses to transport students.
Schools officials confirm that a transportation employee died this week due to the virus. She has been identified as Lynn Himes.
"Due to the number of cases and the need for the Montgomery County Office of Public Health to thoroughly investigate and conduct contact tracing, the county health department recommended transportation be shut down," said Dr. Russell.
The district's plan is to welcome back secondary students for in-person instruction Thursday if they can get a ride. If not, they'll go virtual.
As for their elementary students, they'll be virtual due to logistical issues for the next couple of days.
Dr. Russell said she hopes the health department will allow the district to begin safely busing secondary students and staff starting Tuesday of next week.
Elementary students have an in-service day on Tuesday of next week. So the plan is to begin busing them again starting next Wednesday.
Ginger Youngman, who was dropping off her middle schooler for swim practice Wednesday night, said getting her daughter to school will be tough because she has to work.
"I haven't figured out the logistics of how to get her in," said Youngman.
But she recognized the fact this is a tremendously difficult situation for all involved.
"I completely understand why they did this. They serve the children. They serve the school. They're very vital," she said.
SEE ALSO: COVID-19 outbreak hits Hatboro-Horsham School District transportation workers
The bus yard will also remain locked in the Hatboro-Horsham School District.
Parents there were notified Wednesday the district will not be able to provide bus transportation for the rest of the week due to positive cases and mandatory quarantining.
District officials said more than 20 staff members, roughly 25 percent of their transportation staff, are currently out of work.
Read Perkiomen Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Barbara Russell's full statement below:
"There have been a series of positive COVID cases among employees of the Perkiomen Valley School District's transportation company, Student Transportation of America (STA). The District has contracted services through STA for the past 14 years. STA has been safely transporting Perkiomen Valley School District students since the start of school in September. Unfortunately, over the past several weeks, there has been an increase in the number of STA employees testing positive for COVID-19. Due to the number of cases and the need for the Montgomery County Office of Public Health to thoroughly investigate and conduct contact tracing, the county health department recommended transportation be shut down beginning Wednesday, February 3 through Monday, Feb. 8. At this time, there are over 30 confirmed COVID cases among STA staff. The Perkiomen Valley School District is working closely with STA to review all health and safety procedures and conduct the necessary contact tracing. Transportation is scheduled to resume for the District's public and non-public students on Tuesday, Feb. 9. We recognize the difficulties this presents for families and regret it is just one more thing to deal with during an already challenging school year. However, the health and safety of all is top priority. On behalf of the District, Superintendent Dr. Barbara Russell extends her sincerest condolences on the passing of STA employee earlier this week, Ms. Lynn Himes. We are thankful to Ms. Himes for her service to the transportation of Perkiomen Valley students over the years. It is the District's hope, the affected STA individuals regain a full and speedy recovery."
The Pennsylvania State Education Association, a union representing area teachers, says outbreaks like these are an important reminder for PPE use, following safety guidelines and proper spacing.
"There's definitely a concern that if we had overcrowded classrooms or overcrowded uses there is a greater risk of this virus spreading," said Chris Lilienthal, PSEA spokesperson.
The Montgomery County Department of Public Health says it also advises bus operators to keep the first two rows of seats unoccupied to maintain social distancing between the driver and students.