Children line up Monday outside Marcia Buker Elementary School in Richmond while waiting for rides or escorts home. No buses are available through next Tuesday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

RICHMOND — While Richmond residents scrambled Monday to find rides for their children after Sunday’s announcement that school bus routes were canceled through next Tuesday, officials in Regional School Unit 2 gave few additional details for why bus transportation had been suspended.

“Due to the direct impact of COVID-19 on our staff, we are unable to provide bus transportation for students from now through Nov. 16,” Karl Matulis, principal of Richmond Middle and High School, wrote Monday in an email to the Kennebec Journal.

Matulis did not specify if “staff” referred to transportation or school employees.

Jon Hamann, chairman of the RSU 2 board of directors, declined to provide more information.

“With small groups such as bus drivers, disclosing any information would violate privacy rules as it becomes easy to discern the individuals involved,” Hamann wrote in an email Monday, adding the district would not comment further.

RSU 2 Superintendent Tonya Arnold did not respond Monday to a request for comment.


In a classroom setting, students and staff members who are vaccinated or where universal masking is practiced, as is the case in RSU 2, are not required to quarantine.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and state Department of Education guidelines, those who have close contacts on a bus have to quarantine because of the inability to maintain social distance and the possibility of extended time spent around a person or people infected with COVID-19.

Almost every district in Maine has experienced a bus driver shortage and hurdles in transportation from COVID-19.

Parents in RSU 2 were notified late Sunday afternoon of the issue through automated voice messages and a post to the district’s website. The notice indicated there were three COVID-19 cases in Richmond but did not specify if the cases involved students, school staff members or bus staff members.

Briana Clifford was one of the parents to offer rides to other children. Her daughter, Haven, attends Marcia Buker Elementary School and Clifford offered to pick up at least three students on her way to work.

“I am a pediatric nurse and understand the burden this pandemic has had on working families from both a viewpoint as a parent and as a health care worker,” Clifford said. “The added stress worrying about how we will transport our children to and from school just adds another layer.”


Clifford said she offered rides to help students attend school in person, to relieve parents’ stress and as a simple way to tell the community: “We got this. I’m here for you.”

Clifford said she did not give any rides Monday morning.

Matulis sent a message to families Monday morning acknowledging the hardship the lack of transportation could cause and apologizing for the additional burden. Matulis opened the school at 7 a.m., before classes, and kept it open until 4 p.m. to allow families extended time to drop off or pick up their children.

Matulis said based on Monday’s attendance, most students made it to school. If not, they tuned in remotely.

Children exit Marcia Buker Elementary School in Richmond on Monday at the end of the school day. No buses will be available through next Tuesday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“If there was an alternative, we would certainly pursue it, but right now the only option for keeping school open is to ask you to transport your students,” Matulis wrote to families.

Chief James Donnell of the Richmond Police Department posted on the Richmond PD Facebook page offering to take students to school. As of Monday morning, Donnell said he had not taken any students to school.

College student Cosette Kilde offered rides to students, too.

Kilde, whose younger sister attends Hall-Dale Elementary School, said she understands how some parents are unable to drive students to and from school. As of Monday morning, Kilde had not driven any students to school.

“I decided to offer because I know when I was younger, I loved going to school,” Kilde said. “I also know some of these kids are not learning well at home and need to be (at school) in person to be able to learn.”

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