EDITOR’S NOTE: The story has been updated to clarify a quote about the pay rate for bus drivers in Calvert County, Maryland.
Calvert County Public Schools in Maryland confirmed that drivers of it’s bus fleet will “call out sick” on Monday to draw attention to what the district called “challenges with pay and benefits.”
Just four days after Anne Arundel County Public Schools bus drivers ended a strike, Calvert County Superintendent Daniel D. Curry emailed parents, advising families to plan to drive their children to school on Monday as bus drivers planned to call out sick.
“So, we do not know all buses that will not have drivers tomorrow morning,” Curry said
As of 8 p.m. on Sunday, eight buses were listed as having no driver. One bus route is listed as being divided between two other buses — the district added that students on that bus will be late.
The bus decision is also slated to impact a variety of schools, according to the county’s website. Approximately 14 of the district’s 25 schools are expected to see at least some impact from the decision.
Board members as an ‘early signal’
In September, Calvert County board meetings brought to light a number of concerns from parents about staffing shortages and plans to support students in the ongoing pandemic.
A Sept. 9 board member saw criticism of the Board of Education regarding bus drivers, bus safety, new race-equity policies and coronavirus procedures for the district.
Christina Groves, a parent of three in Calvert County, said that she worked with labor unions for school transportation professionals. She didn’t believe the school system provided for adequate bus fleets and staffing because “the bus is not safe” for the staff or students.
Groves alleged the starting wage for a school bus driver is $18 dollars an hour, something she was “shocked to discover.”
“That’s — that’s not enough to pay the people that are in charge of driving our county’s most precious cargo,” she said.
The board has also been under fire for what parents called the adoption of “hateful anti-racism” policies and coronavirus testing policies.
During the most recent board meeting on Sept. 23, staff representatives took to the mic to support the board’s move toward “more equitable and inclusive” policies.
Stacey Taman, president of the Calvert County Association of Educational Support Staff, also noted support for support staff in the county.
“Yelling at a bus driver because their child’s route is too long? That is not OK.” Taman said. “But they continue to persevere and serve their community admirably.”
Hayden Kelly, the board’s student member, added that efforts were being made to combat bussing issues in the school district.
“But there was a reroute and that has led to a lot of students arriving to school on time, which is good” Kelly said. “And they saw improvement, which is what we’re looking for.”