Shortage of Chicago Bus Aides Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Chicago Public Schools confirmed there was a shortage of bus aides Monday due to a quarantine at Vaughn Occupational High School

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A Chicago mother says bus service for her daughter who has special needs was suddenly stopped — an apparent effect of the coronavirus quaratine at a nearby school.

Debra Johnson, whose daughter Amanda attends Northside Learning Center High School, said Amanda's bus didn't show up Monday.

Both were caught off guard when they received a last-minute phone call saying Amanda's bus wouldn’t be picking her up.

“Just a regular day,” Debra Johnson said. “We had everything ready like we normally do. [Then] I got a call on my cell, and I knew the number, it was a Skokie number. That is All Town bus service.”

Johnson said the call was a total shock. She relies on the bus to get her daughter to school. She was even more disappointed to learn the reason why she had been skipped on the bus route.

“Amanda was not picked up because she was a student in a wheelchair,” Johnson said. “They had cancelled pickups for all children in wheelchairs.”

Following a teacher’s aide’s coronavirus diagnosis, a parent with a student at Vaughn Occupational High School is speaking out about her concerns. NBC 5's Kate Chappell has the story.

Because she uses a wheelchair, Amanda needs a lift to get on the bus. Her aide helps secure her chair along the route.

Chicago Public Schools confirmed there was a shortage of bus aides due to a quarantine at Vaughn Occupational High School.

An employee at Vaughn was diagnosed with the coronavirus after traveling on a cruise ship where an outbreak occurred. It is possible Amanda’s aide was at Vaughn before learning of the exposure.

The sixth case of coronavirus in Illinois is a special education classroom assistant at Vaughn Occupation High School on Chicago’s North Side, Chicago Public Schools Chief Janice Jackson said.

CPS calls what happened an “unacceptable error,” but Johnson is concerned about the close contact her daughter had with the aide, and what she calls a lack of communication about the situation.

“I just don’t have the information. No one is really communicating well,” Johnson said. “Then to just segregate, ‘well, we’re not going to take care of kids in wheelchairs.’ I mean, what’s that about? Everyone else gets to go to school but kids in wheelchairs, you’re out of luck,” Johnson questioned.

CPS said bus service will resume Tuesday, and officials are working to get parents more information.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared a disaster proclamation Monday over the coronavirus outbreak as an additional four cases were reported in Chicago. NBC 5's Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

"I just think there was a complete breakdown by CPS," Johnson said. "If they knew this was going to happen, they should have informed parents at least a day before."

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