A sick-out by 21 of Charles County’s 276 school bus drivers caused little disruption today as bus contractors filled positions with substitute drivers and combined routes. The longest delay for students was approximately 30 minutes, according to Mike Heim, transportation director for Charles County Public Schools (CCPS).
“The vast majority of bus drivers in Charles County came to work this afternoon and fulfilled their commitment to our students. Bus drivers care about our students and work hard to build positive relationships with them. Many bus drivers refer to students as ‘my kids,’ and I appreciate that they didn’t let them down today,” Superintendent Kimberly A. Hill said.
Charles County’s 276 buses travel 34,000 miles daily, which adds up to 6.1 million miles per year. Most of the school system’s 26,300 students ride a school bus at some time, and 23,199 students ride daily. In Charles County, 26 independent contractors provide the school bus services for CCPS. Most of these privately owned businesses are local, family owned and have provided bus services for the children in our community for decades. These 26 bus contractors employ bus drivers to drive the school bus routes.
School system transportation staff began working with contractors on Friday when rumors about a sick-out surfaced. Contractors worked to secure substitute drivers and the school system on Monday notified parents and the community about the possible job action.
Recently, bus drivers have expressed concerns about their pay and benefits during the Public Forum portion of the Board of Education’s monthly meeting. As a result, school system staff has had several meetings with the self-appointed driver leaders as well as meetings with some of the contractors. The superintendent, the assistant superintendent for supporting services and the director of transportation met on Monday with the driver leaders and a union representative to discuss their concerns. During this meeting, school system staff offered potential solutions to some of the concerns; however, drivers said they still planned to go through with the job action.
School system staff plans to hold additional meetings to assist drivers and contractors in resolving their differences.
“Bus drivers provide an important service to Charles County Public Schools and we value their contributions to a positive school experience for our students. We stand ready to assist bus drivers as they seek to improve communication with their employers, the independent bus contractors. We hope that these two groups will work together to talk about solutions to the concerns expressed by some of our drivers,” Hill said.
Fourteen school districts in the state of Maryland contract their bus services rather than own their own bus fleet. A link to a chart that compares Charles County bus drivers’ pay and benefits with other contracted systems around the state is posted on the CCPS website at http://www.ccboe.com/PDF/SalaryComparisonChart.pdf
“We appreciate the patience of our community as we managed possible interruptions in transportation services. We will continue to communicate regularly with parents about any changes that may impact their children,” Hill said.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.