101 school buses did not run in Cumberland County on Tuesday as bus drivers protest low pay

Andrea Blanford Image
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
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Cumberland County Schools said it had 101 school buses remain stationary Tuesday morning amid a school bus drivers' protest.

FAYETTEVILLE. N.C. (WTVD) -- Cumberland County Schools said it had 101 school buses remain stationary Tuesday morning amid a school bus drivers' protest.

The school district had warned parents that a bus driver protest was likely Tuesday. When the protest happened, school leaders worked hard to alert parents whose children would not have buses to ride.

Cumberland County Schools Executive Director of Transportation Kristi Harden said it was very difficult to accurately say how many bus drivers called out sick for the protest or exactly how many students that affected.

"There was disruption, any time students/parents can't rely on a means of transportation there will be disruption to the household to the educational day. Buses ran late. I don't know that I could put a number on how much disruption, but it did cause disruption," Harden said.

Harden said the district did not have a single bus driver no-call no-show Tuesday.

Cumberland County Schools said it had 265 drivers working Tuesday; a normal day sees between 300-315 drivers. Some drivers from other schools logged in with Cumberland County on Tuesday to help with the shortage.

Harden said the majority of the buses that did not operate Tuesday were buses that normally transport Exceptional Children.

Associate Superintendent of Communications & Community Engagement Lindsay Whitley said the disruption to bus transportation could continue into next week.

He also said the district is working diligently to try and come up with a solution that raises the pay of bus drivers and other school staff members.

"We want to be able to increase the pay of our premiere professionals. Our bus drivers, our teachers, our cafeteria staff--everyone has worked and continues to work extremely hard on behalf of our children," Whitley said.

The bus driver protest comes on the heels of a similar protest in Wake County.

After days of the protest in Wake County, the school board approved a $1,250 one-time bonus for all employees as well as a 1 percent increase in pay for permanent staff members.

In Cumberland County, all staff members received a $1,000 bonus at the beginning of November. However, bus drivers in that district make $12.21 an hour and currently are short 46 drivers for the 436 buses serving 17,000 students.

The school district said it did not not know the total number of absences Tuesday morning, but insisted it would provide an update when that information became available.