The marquee at Canyon High School reminds students that Comal ISD begins school Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021 in New Braunfels.

The numbers of school bus drivers sickened or exposed in the latest surge of COVID-19 have led Comal Independent School District officials to cancel some routes beginning this week.

In a letter to parents Monday, Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim said losing additional bus drivers comes on top of a shortage of drivers that has forced the district into subbing with staffers and mechanics since the start of the school year.

“However, we are now at the point where we are needing to cancel routes daily due to more of our drivers getting COVID-tested and calling in sick,” Kim said.

“We anticipate that this trend will continue for the next several weeks.”

Steve Stanford, Comal ISD executive director of communications and governmental relations, said the situation has led to cancelations of only “three or four” of the 80 or so routes serving the 589-square mile district.

“It varies by the day,” he said. “It might be the same route two days in a row, but it really depends on the driver who is calling in (sick).”

Kim said when routes are canceled, the district’s goal is to contact parents as soon possible “so you can make appropriate plans to get your child to and/or from school,” adding “there may be times when we are notified (of routes without available drivers) at the last minute” that could prevent timely notice.

“I know these last-minute cancelations are an inconvenience and create an unnecessary burden for you and your family. For that I am sorry,” he said. “We are currently working on a plan that will allow us to provide stable transportation service so we can reduce your stress of wondering if your child will have transportation. 

“We will continue to work on those details and will share those plans with you this Thursday.”

The driver shortage was hoped to see at least a few applicants during the district’s single-day job fair Monday night, but the shortage began when the pandemic arrived nearly two years ago. 

“Since we’ve returned from the (Christmas-New Year’s) break, we don’t have the same number of drivers in reserve, or on standby, to take over those routes,” Stanford said. “If we can’t fill them with office staffers or mechanics, we really have no choice but to cancel the route.”

Kim asked parents for their patience as drivers and transportation department staffers “continue to work diligently to safely get your child to and from school,” he said, adding, “If you know of anyone who would be interested and willing to be a bus driver for us, please have them fill out an application.”

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