Students board the bus at Vine Street School in Bangor in 2014. Credit: Ashley L. Conti / BDN

Hundreds of Bangor students have to quarantine after they were exposed to school bus staff who later tested positive for COVID-19.

Bangor’s public schools shut down for in-person instruction on Tuesday morning after the department’s bus contractor, Cyr Bus Line, reported cases of COVID-19 that led to a shortage of available drivers.

Five bus drivers and staff who assist drivers on school buses have tested positive for COVID-19 and two more are showing symptoms, Bangor Superintendent Kathy Harris-Smedberg said. Hundreds of students who recently rode the bus to or from school are considered close contacts.

Five of Bangor’s 11 schools will continue with remote instruction for the rest of the week, Harris-Smedberg said. 

Bangor High, James F. Doughty, Mary Snow, Fairmount and Vine Street schools will remain closed for in-person instruction until Monday. Six other schools will resume in-person instruction on Wednesday: Abraham Lincoln, Downeast, Fourteenth Street, Fruit Street and William S. Cohen schools as well as the Bangor Regional Program.

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After-school activities for all Bangor schools have been canceled for now. 

School buses will be available for students at the schools that resume in-person learning on Wednesday, but Harris-Smedberg encouraged parents to arrange alternative transportation for their children if they are able.

“Not only are we dealing with a [driver] shortage, but now we also have the pandemic on top of it,” she said. ”So it’s not like we have a lot of substitutes that can come in and cover.”

The Bangor School Department told parents through voicemails and emails early Tuesday morning, at around 5:30 a.m., that schools would shift to fully remote learning. The notice came about two hours before classes were to start for middle-school students.

The school department is still working on determining the exact number of students who are considered close contacts of the Cyr Bus Line employees who tested positive, Harris-Smedberg said. A school nurse or other Bangor School Department staff member was expected to reach out to those students on Tuesday.

This is the first time all Bangor schools have transitioned to remote learning on such short notice. Bangor High School and Mary Snow School have previously had short periods of remote learning after students and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

A Cyr Bus Line representative did not respond to requests for comment.

A number of school districts in the Bangor area use Cyr Bus Line, though central office staff in Brewer and at Hampden-based Regional School Unit 22 said they hadn’t been affected by the bus company’s COVID-19 cases.

Brewer High School was fully remote on Tuesday, but for another reason: a COVID-19 case, about which parents were informed on Monday. Three grade levels at Brewer Community School, which serves elementary and middle school-age students, were already scheduled to have fully remote instruction this week.