DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham Public Schools announced Monday afternoon that classrooms would be open to students Tuesday.
The school district said it plans to operate its normal schedule after two consecutive days of transportation employees calling out.
No classes took place Monday, because of the ongoing callouts related to pay issues among some employees.
ABC11 learned on Monday that there are about 45 people who are responsible for the 150 buses that are used throughout Durham Public Schools. These workers are the mechanics, fleet supervisors, and area managers -- not the bus drivers themselves.
DPS said that of the 45, only five worked on Friday and only six showed up Monday.
These staffers are crucial to making sure the buses are good to go in the mornings. It's a state law that the buses are inspected before they're allowed to roll out for the day.
At an unrelated event Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper was asked about the ongoing problems at Durham Public Schools (DPS).
"Well first, this is so frustrating for educators and staff in Durham. It needs to be fixed, and they need to do it quickly. Obviously, we need significantly more investment in our public schools, but we need to get our educators in the classroom. And I encourage that to happen. I hope the new interim superintendent, whom I know well, is at work already; this thing needs to be fixed," he said.
Monday marked recently-named DPS Interim Superintendent Catty Moore's first day on the job in Durham, but for parents -- it felt like a perfect repeat of where things stood on Friday: with kids kept out of the classroom.
As the district's ongoing pay dispute continues, some of those parents are becoming more concerned about children falling behind.
"Everything at school now focuses on end-of-grade testing, and we're missing so much instructional time -- what happens when it's time to take these important tests that determine children's placement and advancement into the next grade level and things like that?" asked Donna Smith, whose son is an eighth-grader at Neal Middle School.
Smith said she's one of the lucky ones in that the disruptions caused by school closures haven't affected her much personally. Emily Coleman's been less fortunate. She's a working parent with two children at DPS, including a third-grader with ADHD who relies on the district for school and after-school tutoring.
"I can't provide that because obviously, I'm not a teacher," Coleman said. "It was hard enough during the pandemic and me just trying to do virtual learning and keep him at a desk and still and focus."
DPS has pinned the recent school closures on a lack of transportation support employees necessary to inspect the district's buses. In light of the impact the shortage of those workers has had several times now, we asked DPS if it is trying to find similarly trained employees in nearby districts or municipalities to help fill the void. The district said it is not having those conversations right now.
ABC11 also requested to speak with Moore as she took over DPS on Monday. The district said she wasn't available until later this week.
"I'm excited to be with the Durham Public Schools community and am focused squarely on meeting and checking in with those who have been doing the work of ensuring our students' success. We're readjusting the focus together," Moore said in a statement Monday.
Smith said it's frustrating to see the crisis drag out while the district pays hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance to its old superintendent and another $25,000 a month -- the amount being paid to Moore -- to employ a new one.
"Why don't they take those hundreds of thousands of dollars and distribute it among the people that need to get paid at this point?" Smith asked.
Chris Gaston, a father of three children in the Durham school system, said he supports these staffers getting paid more
"We appreciate the teachers and everything, but they also need to get paid because if you got people and all these high-tech buildings here ...I hate to say it but they are causing the cost of living to go up," said Gaston, who works in Hospice Care at Duke. "I wouldn't mind paying higher taxes if teachers going to teach my kids because the kids are our future ... They just need to pay the teachers, not just the teachers -- other people, the cafeteria workers, the bus drivers.
"Anyone dealing with these kids needs to be paid," he added.