Shoreline bus routes unaffected despite predicted protests

Photo of Christine DeRosa
Connecticut Shoreline school districts reported no issues with bus transportation Monday when the governor’s COVID vaccine mandate took effect.

Connecticut Shoreline school districts reported no issues with bus transportation Monday when the governor’s COVID vaccine mandate took effect.

Cassandra Day / Hearst Connecticut Media

A statewide threat of protests against Gov. Lamont’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, which require weekly testing for unvaccinated school bus drivers, did not impact district operations along the Shoreline as expected Monday.

Morning routes also went smoothly across the Connecticut, with only four bus drivers not reporting to work, the state said.

Westbrook

Westbrook Superintendent of Schools Kristina Martineau said she has not encountered issues with the seven buses serving students this academic year. “We are fully staffed. We’ve had no disruptions getting the kids to school.”

While getting students to school is a nonissue, that’s not true of after-school activities, such as sports. The district has had to cancel one or two games because of a shortage of backup bus drivers, the superintendent added.

Operators employed by M&J Bus Co. are in full compliance with the mandate that went into effect Monday, according to Martineau. The district does not track individual vaccination rates for bus drivers.

Unvaccinated Westbrook education staff are required to submit weekly test results to school nurses. The district does not have an a testing clinic for employees, as they are responsible for scheduling their own tests.

Madison

Madison Superintendent Craig Cooke said his district also had no problems Monday morning.

“We have been fortunate, and continue to be fully staffed, although lacking the substitute drivers we normally have. Our vaccination rate of drivers is over 95 percent, and all will comply with the new regulations in place (vaccinated or weekly testing),” Cooke wrote in an email.

He added that the district is involved in making sure the executive order is followed by all contractors.

East Haddam

East Haddam schools had a similar experience, according to Superintendent Brian Reas, who said the district did not experience delays or problems due to the mandate.

DATTCO, the district’s provider, will be implementing testing protocol for its staff, Reas said.

Clinton

Clinton Public Schools had no concerns involving routes or drivers Monday. Operators met the requirements of the executive order, said Cassie Cannamela, an administrative assistant for the district.

Colchester

In Colchester, Superintendent Jeffrey Burt said he was not aware of any bus drivers participating in the walkout, and saw no impact to service.

Bozrah

Bozrah Superintendent Portia Bonner also said the schools were not impacted by the walkout.

Regional District 17

John Mercer, operations director of Regional School District 17, which serves Haddam and Killingworth, said all drivers showed up Monday. Most employees of the district’s transportation company, Student Transportation of America, are vaccinated, he added.

Save for two unvaccinated bus monitors, the large majority of STA staff are vaccinated, Mercer said. There are six bus operators who haven’t gotten the vaccine, and all will be tested weekly, he added.

“Like most other districts, we are experiencing bussing issues, but STA is working hard to try and resolve things as much as possible,” Mercer said.

Lebanon

In Lebanon, Superintendent Andrew Gonzalez said the district had no problems — good news to start his day. He said all Lebanon bus drivers, who work for M&J Bus, are in compliance with the order — whether they chose to be vaccinated, get tested weekly or received a medical exemption.

“That’s also a good thing and a credit to M&J ... for being right on top of all the regulations,” he said.

Other towns

M&J, which also services Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook and Old Lyme, reported that all of their bus drivers arrived, and are complying with Lamont’s mandate.

“All of our drivers came in and all of them are either vaccinated or testing weekly,” said bus dispatcher Michelle Altmannsberger, who works at the Old Saybrook yard on Ingham Hill Road.

The company is facing the same bus driver shortage happening statewide, and the company is always hiring, she said.

“I myself have not had to combine anything in my two yards, but other yards are having to combine runs and run things a little late,” Altmannsberger said.