Minooka 201 Students, Parents and Families,
As you are aware, our staff have been working hard to prepare our district and buildings for our in-person students to be able to return to in-person instruction for five days each week no later than March 1st. The key variables in getting us ready for that were our facilities (classroom setup and HVAC equipment), increased vaccinations of district staff and adequate staffing in our transportation department. We do not yet have a firm date for this return for reasons we will describe in this communication. To keep our community informed, below is a brief update on each of those areas.
- Most furniture has been returned to classrooms to allow for the increased number of students. Remaining issues are minor adjustments due to a change in in-person/remote numbers within classrooms.
- Installation of the GPS air purification equipment has already begun. Delivery of the remaining equipment is expected today (2/11) and our Buildings and Grounds Department expects substantial completion by the end of next week.
- By the end of today we will have gotten the first dose to approximately 300 of our staff that want the COVID-19 vaccine. At the current pace from Grundy County and the surrounding areas all interested staff should be able to receive a first dose by March 1st, though changes in availability could extend this date. We are very grateful to our local health departments and the volunteers that dedicated their time to help disseminate the vaccines in our communities.
That brings us to the trouble variable that is not yet solved - Transportation:
- As a Community Consolidated School District, Minooka 201 is legally required to provide transportation to all K-8 students that live outside of 1.5 miles from their attendance center. Our district like many other transportation providers saw a decrease in staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have not had any influx of new bus drivers since.
- While we have remained able to transport all students during the A/B split due to the decreased number of students, the current limit of no more than 50 people on a bus (49 students plus 1 driver) with double the amount of students has left us short of the necessary number of drivers.
- We have also contacted every third party transportation provider in the region to contract the outstanding routes, and none of them have any available staff.
- We will immediately be offering sign on bonuses for incoming drivers, especially those with an existing CDL. Drivers that need a CDL require weeks of training before they can take the required state tests. If new drivers have a CDL, they can begin driving a bus within days, not weeks.
- To do everything we can to attract drivers with CDL's, new drivers will get $1,000 if they drive for the remainder of this school year, and those with existing CDL's will receive an additional $1,000 for joining our team.
My last two communications have included a plea for parents to consider driving their students to school if they are able. The number of kids on our buses coupled with a shortage of drivers is the last barrier to Minooka 201 getting our schools open five days a week. We again ask you to consider personal transportation wherever able, including neighborhood carpools. No family will lose access to transportation going forward by driving their student(s) now. If we can partner to lower the number of students while we continue to ramp up staffing, more routes can be added in the future as drivers join our team. If any family would consider switching to personal transportation, please contact your school office.
As always, thank you for your patience and your partnership. We will get through this together!
Kristopher P. Monn, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Minooka CCSD 201
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