Wake County Schools tells parents to pick up kids due to ‘significant bus driver absences’

Wake County News

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County Schools is telling parents to not only prepare to pick up their children on Friday but ready for a similar situation on Monday as bus drivers protest low wages.

An alert sent out by the district Friday afternoon says:

“If possible, parents should arrange their own transportation for their students this afternoon. This is true even if bus transportation was available this morning, as we are uncertain which drivers will be available.”

The transportation issues come after Wake County bus drivers told the district to be prepared for a protest on Friday.

Some drivers said they were planning on not showing up for work as a way to bring attention to working conditions and wages.

The district sent out an email blast and robocalls at around 7:45 a.m. telling families that “many of the school district’s bus routes are not running this morning.”

The district said they “apologize for the inconvenience” and told families to check their child’s bus route but be prepared and able to transport students to school this morning.

The alert went on to say that families should “make plans for this afternoon if the route is not covered.”

“While we sympathize with these concerns and continue to advocate for additional state and local funding, we also want you to be aware should an unexpected shortage affect your child,” Wake County Schools said.

The district said it is “working to address the root causes of this issue, but for today our primary concern is to ensure student safety.”

CBS 17 spoke with several bus drivers on Thursday about the protest.

One bus driver, who did not want to speak publicly, told CBS 17 she felt overwhelmed, underappreciated, and underpaid, which is why, she said, she won’t be going in to work.

Another bus driver, Zachary Campbell, said he went from two routes pre-pandemic to seven routes this year. Now he has to sanitize between each route, enforce mask-wearing, and drive longer.

He said drivers deserve a raise to show for it.

“We just kind of overall don’t feel very much supported by the school system,” Campbell said.

Campbell said he will be showing up to work Friday, but does know of other drivers staging a “sick-out.” He said he supports their right to do so but does not believe it’s the best way for drivers to get what they want.

According to the district, bus driver pay ranges from $15 to $23.37 an hour. As of September, the district had more than 100 bus driver vacancies.

Thomas Korva, a grandparent of a kindergartener who rides the bus in Wake County, said he’s prepared to drive his granddaughter if necessary.

“I can sympathize with the drivers. Things are rough. People have to get better pay,” Korva said.

Last month, the Durham school board voted to raise bus driver pay in hopes of addressing staffing shortages. WCPSS school board member James Martin said a proposal addressing pay issues for all employees is likely to come up at Tuesday’s board meeting.

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