School buses parked at Cyr Bus on Ohio Street in Bangor on Wednesday January 20, 2021. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

No bus drivers were available Wednesday morning to drive students of six Bangor schools to class — an abrupt change that forced parents to scramble to find another way to get their kids to school.

The Bangor School Department notified parents at 7:20 a.m. — less than an hour before doors open for middle-school students — that no buses would run Wednesday. The school department continued with in-person classes at those six schools, but without bus service that it expected to provide.

On Tuesday, the school department abruptly called off in-person classes for all students for the day due to a shortage of bus drivers. That call came after seven drivers and Cyr Bus Line staff members tested positive for COVID-19, potentially exposing hundreds of students to the coronavirus.

Doors reopened at the six schools Wednesday, while the other five will conduct instruction online for the rest of the week.

Interim Superintendent Kathy Harris-Smedberg said she learned from the school department’s bus contractor, Cyr Bus Line, shortly after 7 a.m. that no bus drivers would be available Wednesday.

Cyr employees called the garage and said they did not feel safe working due to the number of people who had already tested positive for COVID-19, Harris-Smedberg said. The contractor did not say when bus drivers would return to work. Cyr Bus Line representatives haven’t responded to requests for comment.

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“Due to how late it was when I received the call I felt that [a remote learning day] would have been a challenge for many families,” Harris-Smedberg said. “It might have been easier for them to find transportation to get to school for today.”

Those six schools, however, might switch to remote learning for the rest of the week due to the shortage of bus drivers, Harris-Smedberg said Wednesday morning. The schools are Abraham Lincoln, Downeast, Fourteenth Street, Fruit Street and William S. Cohen schools as well as the Bangor Regional Program.

Schools are required to provide transportation for elementary and special education students. Many parents said they can arrange transportation for their children for the next few days, Harris-Smedberg said, but the school department hasn’t determined whether it can legally keep schools open without offering bus service.

On the other hand, switching to remote learning for the rest of the week can present other challenges for parents.

“I don’t want any bus drivers, faculty members and staff members to feel like they’re in an unsafe working environment,” Harris-Smedberg said. “When I get thrown a curveball like this, then I try to make a decision that will be best for everyone.”

The five other Bangor schools have been remote since Tuesday due to a large number of students and staff having to quarantine and and will reopen on Monday.

Those are Bangor High, James F. Doughty, Mary Snow, Fairmount and Vine Street schools.

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