CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — Thousands of families were affected over the past week when numerous Wake County school bus drivers didn’t show up for work to call attention to pay and working conditions.
Tuesday night bus drivers were making their concerns known at the Wake County School Board meeting — and they were not the only ones.
There was a large group gathered outside the meeting. They are all people who work in some capacity inside the schools or getting kids to school. They’re asking for better pay and more support.
Bus drivers, safety assistants, teachers, instructional assistants, child nutrition employees all came to the Wake County School Board meeting.
They say they’re dealing with exceptionally difficult conditions this year. Bus drivers have more routes than normal, safety assistants say there isn’t consistency in their routes, teachers and instructional assistants say they’re taking on additional roles within the school.
Then school board approved one time bonuses of $1,250 for all full-time staff members, increased the salary supplement for teachers and other certified staff by 1 percent and raised minimum pay for support staff to $13 an hour, but the board acknowledged this is only a first step and the county needs the help of the state which has not yet passed a budget.
“Some would say we’re not going far enough; we’re not being bold. I think our decision tonight, to go this alone without the state’s help is a bold move on our part, and again we wish that we could do more and I think more is certainly coming,” said Wake County school board chairman Keith Sutton.
The superintendent said the public can expect to hear more next month about a plan for additional bonuses.
But many out at the meeting before and after the vote said what was offered is not enough.
“I’ve got six routes in the morning and five in the afternoon, and each route that we get we have to do seating assignments, we have to do manifests,” said bus driver Maureen Lander.
“We are about the children and the safety and we want them to know we care for them but we want to have somebody care for us too,” said Patricia Collins, a safety assistant.
Also Tuesday night, the school board voted to continue face coverings inside buildings and on buses. But the school board decided that outdoor masks are now optional for athletics, band, and extracurricular activities.