Bloomington schools return to distance learning due to COVID-19 outbreak among transportation staff

Bloomington Public Schools is putting a two-week pause on in-person learning due to a COVID-19 outbreak among its transportation staff, according to a notification from the school district.

"We want nothing more than for our students and staff to be in schools learning safely," wrote Superintendent Les Fujitake in the message. "We understand this is yet another disruption for our families in an already demanding year."

Just last week, Bloomington students in Pre-K through 2nd grade returned to in-person learning. Students in 3rd through 5th grade were scheduled to return on Monday, according to its Return to Learn Guide.

Due to the outbreak, students at all of those grade levels will have classes through distance learning for the next two weeks, the notice states. In-person learning will resume for Pre-K through 5th grade on Feb. 12.

According to Director of Community Relations Rick Kaufman, a total of 17 staff members have been impacted -- eight have tested positive and nine are isolating due to close contact. The staff members are a mix of bus drivers and bus aides as well as operations staff, which make up the majority of the cases. These operations employees serve as back-up drivers and manage traffic control.

Kaufman says a "handful" of students experienced close contact. Those students have been notified.

"It’s difficult, we’re disappointed. It’s no one’s fault, it’s the nature of the pandemic. It’s tough," said Kaufman.

During the next two weeks, transportation for any extracurricular activities will also be suspended. According to Kaufman, Bloomington's high school activities directors say this will not have a large impact because many teams had already been handling their own transportation.

The pause also impacts a small amount of middle school students that were getting transportation for in-person learning supports.

Some childcare services will be provided during the two-week pause.