Clay County schools mum on bus drivers’ status

District tight-lipped about number of drivers exposed

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Clay County School District won’t say how many of its bus operators and monitors are under quarantine or have tested positive for the coronavirus following the death of one its drivers.

Gail Brusseau, 66, was a driver for the school district for 26 years. In her final years as an operator, Brusseau was driving students with special needs. She planned to retire in December with her husband but tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks into the school year.

At age 66, Brusseau died after spending weeks in the hospital.

“I begged her to retire and she said, ‘No, I am going to go one more year,’" Brusseau’s husband, Bill, said. “The woman lying in there shouldn’t be. I am going to miss her with all of my heart.”

After Brusseau’s death, the district has remained tight-lipped about whether the virus spread to other drivers and monitors, deferring to a Florida Department of Health report that lists reported cases in schools.

The reports give a school-by-school breakdown of positive cases in students and staff, including the district office building, but has not listed any positive cases at any of the Clay County Transportation hubs.

The school district currently lists five total positive cases among its staff on the school website.

Last week, the district’s bus operators received a robocall asking them to submit questions for the Florida Department of Health in Clay County.

“I’ve been informed the health department over COVID wants to do a Q&A with the transportation department,” Transportation Department Director Derald Sweatt said in a recorded message.

The Department of Health would not disclose the number of bus operators or monitors who tested positive or had to quarantine since the start of the year.

“As soon as the Department of Health is made aware of a positive COVID-19 case, patients are isolated and extensive interviews and contact tracing investigations are conducted," the agency said.

The health department confirmed it’s creating a video to answer staff’s questions.

News4Jax has repeatedly requested an interview with Sweatt, but those requests have been denied. A school district spokeswoman said Sweatt would not do interviews “out of respect” for Brusseau’s family.

“Losing a staff member is difficult. Mr. Sweatt has done a wonderful job meeting the needs of all employees in his department and they are all working to move forward in a positive direction,” the spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said the transportation department continues to follow procedures detailed in the district’s reopening plan, including having sanitizer on buses, requiring face masks, assigned seating and cleaning buses after each route and day.

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