FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Cumberland County School bus drivers pledge to continue calling out sick until the district pays them a livable wage.
“We do not plan to roll those buses until we see something in writing,” said Sugar Harvey, who’s been a school bus driver for three years.
The school district said 101 of the county’s school buses didn’t run on Tuesday. It’s unclear how many students were impacted, but schools in Fayetteville’s 71st neighborhood had the most buses that didn’t run. At least 63 of those were EC buses, which are used to transport students with disabilities and special needs.
Theresa Spearman is one of the EC drivers who called out sick. She loves her job, but said her route and workload have increased, and something needs to change.
“A lot of people get it mixed up that bus drivers just drive. We hook wheelchairs. We hook kids into their harnesses. We do it all, every day,” said Spearman, who has 22 years of experience as a bus driver.
All CCS school bus drivers start around $12.28 an hour. The school board recently approved one-time bonuses for school employees. The superintendent received a $10,000 bonus, each of his cabinet members was given $5,000, while school bus drivers were given a $1,000 bonus.
“Some of us have been working here for four, 10, 20 years and still making less than $13 an hour,” said Luwinda Binnion, a school driver who called out sick and protested outside CCS headquarters on Tuesday.
She added: “If we were making $15 an hour, we probably wouldn’t be here.”
With bus drivers out, parents had to figure out alternative ways to get their kids to and from school.
“All parents cannot afford to take off work and be up to get the kids from school,” said Shirley Henderson, who picked up her grandchild on Tuesday. “So some just end up missing school because they don’t have no way to get them there.”
The district warned parents that this could last through next week.
“We’ll face each day and do what we can to take care of our students,” said Kristi Harden, Executive Director of Transportation at CCS.
The school board is expected to meet in December to talk about the district’s finances.
“We’re praying that they will take head and they’ll help us out, which they should,” said Evelyn McLaurin, whose been a bus driver since 2001.