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School bus drivers across Washington laid off as districts adopt remote learning in pandemic

The shift to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic has reduced the need for transportation and bus drivers in Washington.

EDMONDS, Wash. — School buses sit parked and empty at the Edmonds School District transportation headquarters, and they'll stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Because of the shift to remote learning due to ongoing coronavirus pandemic, 175 of the district's school bus drivers are now out of work, and no one has any idea when they might return.

Todd Burt has been a driver for 12 years and loves his job.

"You're the first one to see the kids in the morning. You start their day. It's fun," he says. "You're last at the end of the day to see them before they go home. You're there for them."

The district announced the layoffs in an email over the weekend.

The same scenario is expected to play out in school districts all across the state.

With most students only participating in remote learning this fall, they will not need to be bused.

Burt, a father of three, had to break the news he had been dreading to his wife.

"The uncertainty just really sank in at that point," he said. "You start going through all kinds of wild things in your head. Can we pay our bills? Can we pay the mortgage?"

Many districts kept drivers on the payroll through the summer, making deliveries of meals and technology for families that needed them.

But both of those are being severely cut back this fall.

"We just don't have students to transport so we don't have work for our amazing bus drivers," said Edmonds district spokeswoman Harmony Weinberg. "They are dedicated to their work. They transport children every day. It's a special job for those with a real heart for students. This is heartbreaking."

With a very uncertain future ahead of him, Burt simply tries to stay positive and think of the day he'll be able to see all those kids again.

"It's one day at a time," he said. "You just try to think of the good things and not the bad."

District leaders in Edmonds say they plan to reassess the transportation plan at the end of each semester to determine when and if drivers will be able to return to their routes.

RELATED: In-person or remote learning in fall? Check this list for western Washington school districts