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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Durham faces second L&I investigation and management changes over COVID-19 issues

March 24, 2021 Updated Wed., March 24, 2021 at 10:06 p.m.

Cindi Miraglia, Durham School services bus driver, puts chains on bus wheels to make it up the icy hill on 37th Avenue at Havana Street after an overnight snowfall on Dec. 11, 2019, in Spokane.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
Cindi Miraglia, Durham School services bus driver, puts chains on bus wheels to make it up the icy hill on 37th Avenue at Havana Street after an overnight snowfall on Dec. 11, 2019, in Spokane. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)

Durham School Services is changing its local management team as the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has opened a second investigation into the safety practices of the company that provides transportation for thousands of students at Spokane Public Schools.

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

Tim Church, a spokesperson with L&I, confirmed on Wednesday that the first investigation is related to Simpson’s death.

The latest investigation, confirmed Wednesday by an L&I spokesperson, was spurred by complaints from Durham employees over alleged failures to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing requirements.

Ed Flavin, spokesperson for Durham’s corporate office near Chicago, said Wednesday night that the company “has made management changes at the facility to provide enhanced guidance for the team.”

Flavin said he couldn’t divulge which members of the management team were affected, or how many.

“We continue to work with Washington L&I in their investigations, and they have toured our operations several times,” Flavin said.

“As previously stated, we take these concerns very seriously and have made a number of changes at our facility to reduce any chance of virus spread and to further protect our employees,” Flavin continued.

According to emails obtained by The Spokesman-Review through a public records request, school employees reported seeing multiple Durham drivers and attendants not properly wearing masks.

Some school officials also reported that buses appeared to be overcrowded or lacked ventilation.

Under the district’s COVID-19 bus rules, all bus workers and riders are required to wear masks. And bus windows must be open to circulate the air more frequently. Also, no more than two students per seat are allowed.

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.

During the past month, 57 local Durham employees have been quarantined.

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