Hundreds of Charles Co. students switch to livestream classes as bus driver sickout continues

Charles County, Maryland, public schools saw a fifth straight day of sickouts from bus drivers on Thursday.

While only about 74 routes were affected, hundreds of routes have been cancelled this week, keeping hundreds of kids from class.

“In a school system of 27,000 students, we’ve had about 900 students that have not been able to secure transportation to come to school in one or more of the days where we’ve had interruptions in transportation. That’s a large number. Any number is large,” said Superintendent Maria Navarro.

Navarro expects sickouts to last through Friday. Until negotiations are finalized, teachers will livestream classes for affected students.

Directions to find the livestream can be found on the school system’s website. 

“It is not perfect, by all means, but at a minimum, it allows the students that are sitting at home to view the lessons in their home, and then access online the homework or the handouts that were given for that specific class,” Navarro said. “It’s not the best course. I want all students back for in-person learning. But it is a temporary solution as we work through our transportation issues.”

Bus drivers want raises and increased benefits. One flyer seen by WTOP said drivers were asking for a $15 wage increase on top of their $20 an hour starting salary.

“I’ve gotten several flyers. One of the flyers that I did receive had in it about a $15 raise. I’ve gotten other flyers from contractors and others from other bus drivers that have different numbers and other interests,” Navarro said. “So not just the dollar raise, but also their other benefits — medical, life insurance benefits and other demands.”

The school system approved a 4% raise for drivers and support staff on Tuesday. The adjustment is effective on Dec. 10.

“We offered and the board approved the 4% COLA [cost of living adjustment], which increased the wages for bus drivers and attendants. And I have always said that that is a show of good faith on behalf of the school system — that we are willing to work through and address the concerns that they have raised to us,” said Navarro.

WTOP has reached out to bus drivers and their union, the AFSCME, and have not heard back.

Bus drivers in Calvert County, Maryland, also staged a sickout Thursday as they call for a pay raise, better health benefits and more consistent hours.

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