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Durham faces $7,000 fine for ‘serious’ COVID-19 safety violations at Spokane Public Schools

Aug. 26, 2021 Updated Thu., Aug. 26, 2021 at 8:52 p.m.

A Durham bus is shown in this file photo.  (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON)
A Durham bus is shown in this file photo. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON)

Durham School Services, which provides transportation to thousands of students in Spokane Public School, is facing a $7,000 fine for ‘serious’ COVID-19 violations last winter during the height of the pandemic.

According to documents from the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries, the company “did not provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, serious injury or death.”

Durham is appealing the fine, L&I officials said Thursday.

Cory Arkle, manager of Durham’s operation in Spokane, did not respond to a phone message Thursday afternoon requesting comment.

According to video provided by Durham, employees on one bus were not wearing masks correctly and failed to observe social distancing.

Additionally, the bus attendant was observed “standing/leaning over the back of the front row seating while talking with the driver, while masks were worn below the nose of both of them.”

Also, the attendant was observed sitting as close as 5 rows behind the driver with the face mask worn below the nose and mouth with all windows of the bus closed.

Finally, employee interviews revealed that employees were not socially distancing or wearing masks properly while gathering in groups of up to 20 in the break room at Durham offices.

The L&I investigation was the second this year involving Durham, a national company which provides daily bus transportation to more than 10,000 students in Spokane.

Earlier, Durham faced an investigation following the death of Dave Simpson, a 62-year-old bus attendant, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Feb. 22 and died several days later.

On Feb. 11, the Spokane Regional Health District reported to the school district that a Durham bus driver and a pair of attendants on two different routes had tested positive for coronavirus, shortly after having worked on buses.

The district also complained last month that Durham management had neglected to reply in a timely fashion to requests for bus seating charts on those routes, a failure the district said stymied contract tracing by district nurses and led to unnecessary quarantining of students.

Those concerns led to the first L&I investigation into Durham’s actions before and after the outbreak announced on Feb. 23.

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