Sat, Jan. 16

Cottonwood-Oak Creek suspends school bus services

The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District has suspended transportation services effective Tuesday. VVN/Dan Engler

The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District has suspended transportation services effective Tuesday. VVN/Dan Engler

VERDE VALLEY — As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, none of Cottonwood-Oak Creek’s 17 bus drivers had tested positive for COVID-19.

However, the school district, in a letter to its families, said that it has suspended transportation services effective Tuesday.

“It’s not a matter of them having COVID,” District Superintendent Steve King said Monday. “It’s a matter of having the capacity and the number of drivers to provide a reliable transportation system to and from school. I cannot guarantee the integrity of the routes at this time and that’s the reason for this decision.”

King explained Monday that there are “circumstances within many of the drivers and their families that would preclude them from driving at this time.”

“Many of our drivers are in that vulnerable population,” King said.

When asked whether any of the district’s bus drivers were waiting for the results of their COVID-19 test, both King and District Nurse Bob Clark said they could not respond.

“We believe (responding) would be a violation of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996),” Clark said. “We cannot give specific nor vague information that would facilitate the discovery of who is being tested. That would be a violation of everybody’s privacy.”

Nov. 20, the City of Cottonwood announced in a news release that one of the drivers for Cottonwood Area Transit had tested positive for COVID-19.

King would not specify how many of the districts bus drivers were not able to work, but he did say that the district has taken seriously the COVID-19 pandemic and all safety measures.

“COCSD has been very vigorous of notifications throughout this (pandemic),” King said.

In Monday’s letter, King stated that beginning Tuesday, the district will only provide transportation services for students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as mandated by applicable laws.

“If your child has an IEP and if it is not possible for you to transport your child, please contact your school by Tuesday, Dec. 1 by 4 p.m.,” King wrote. “All other families will be responsible for transporting their student(s) to and from school.”

King encouraged families to “be aware that there may be long lines at pick up and drop off lanes and plan accordingly.”

The district recommends that anyone who is unable to transport their children should contact their school and teacher to arrange remote learning services.

“I recognize that this may create additional burdens for our families, but we have no other option at this time,” King wrote. “We will continue to revisit this situation on a daily basis and will keep you informed of any changes.”

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