EVERETT, Wash. — Wednesday marked the first day back in the classroom for Everett Public Schools students.
Superintendent Ian Saltzman said he went to sleep Tuesday night confident school buses were going to run on time. Bus staffing shortage issues have impacted several districts already this year, including Seattle Public Schools, causing students to have to find alternative transportation or possibly be hours late to class.
Saltzman said Everett did a good job communicating with driver unions over the summer and practiced runs prior to the start of the school year to learn what some challenges could be.
"Can anything happen? Of course, but I think we're over prepared,” said Saltzman. “And I think staff did a great job getting us to this point.”
Saltzman said the district has been doing mock runs with principals and teachers since July, practicing how staff can help keep students safe during the school year. He said extra face masks will be available and students will be a minimum of 3 feet apart at lunch.
“We're gonna have extra masks if we need masks,” explained Saltzman. “Those cafeterias are going to be spread out, we have situations where they are outside. When they get off the bus, where do they go? This has been rehearsed over, and over, and over. Repetition pays off, and we're overly prepared.”
Despite the preparedness, the delta surge is a concern for families. The number of K-8 students enrolled for virtual learning went from 200 in early July to the cap of 700 ahead of the first day back to school.
It will be a few weeks before school officials know if they're able to accommodate more students to open up the waitlist.
Meanwhile, Saltzman said he wants the community to know COVID-19 cases are likely to happen, but it's how they handle those cases and communicate with parents that also matters so students feel safe and adjusted to the school community.
"The classroom, a student might have to go home and quarantine, we'll follow those guidelines,” said Saltzman. “But we're gonna do our best.”