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About half of Charles County school bus routes impacted Friday morning as drivers call out

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 10/22/2021 Ida Domingo
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Dozens of bus routes for Charles County Schools were cancelled on Friday morning, prompting school officials to ask parents to drive their children to school.

A letter from the school system later on Friday morning (read it in full below) explained that "numerous bus drivers" called out or didn't show up for their routes, as negotiations continue on driver salaries and benefits. 

There have issues with bus driver shortages and strikes in counties throughout the DMV  since children returned to school in August and September. A meeting is scheduled for Nov. 17 for CCPS to present short-term and long-term plans to contractors, drivers and attendants. 

On Friday morning, "CCPS transportation staff, as well as staff from our 26 contracted bus companies, covered as many routes as possible," the statement says. "However, many routes were not covered."

"A total of 62 buses were affected this morning out of 280," the statement goes on to say. "The number of routes affected was 161. Contractors and CCPS transportation staff were able to cover 20 routes, meaning 141 overall routes did not have drivers this morning."

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Officials are now asking parents to make plans for the afternoon, as well.

"CCPS asks parents to have a plan for this afternoon, and for any time there may be a delay in bus service in case their child’s bus does not run," the letter says. "We expect the 62 buses that did not provide service this morning to also be absent from work this afternoon."

More information on CCPS bus routes can be found here. Information on the bus services will also be provided on the CCPS Twitter page.

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) Statement – Friday, Oct. 22, 2021

This morning, Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) experienced a systemwide interruption in transportation. We had numerous bus drivers call out or not show up for their routes. CCPS transportation staff, as well as staff from our 26 contracted bus companies, covered as many routes as possible. However, many routes were not covered.

A total of 62 buses were affected this morning out of 280. The number of routes affected was 161. Contractors and CCPS transportation staff were able to cover 20 routes, meaning 141 overall routes did not have drivers this morning.

CCPS shared route updates with parents by email, text message, and posted affected routes on our website, ccboe.com, and CCPS social media accounts. Staff continue to update the affected bus lists online, as needed. As of 11:30 a.m., all schools are operating normally. While traffic at school campuses increased this morning due to larger than normal car rider lines, students are in class and learning.

Preliminary student attendance data indicates the driver action impacted student attendance today. Higher than normal absences have been reported at the middle- and high-school levels, with elementary schools still reporting morning attendance data at 11:30 a.m.

We do anticipate some drivers who ran their routes this morning to possibly not arrive for dismissal this afternoon. CCPS asks parents to have a plan for this afternoon, and for any time there may be a delay in bus service in case their child’s bus does not run. We expect the 62 buses that did not provide service this morning to also be absent from work this afternoon.

Last night, CCPS Superintendent Maria Navarro sent a systemwide email, phone call and text message to parents about possible transportation interruptions today and urged parents to make back-up transportation plans for their children. CCPS will continue to post transportation updates on its website, ccboe.com, and communicate often with parents.

CCPS staff has been meeting with school bus contractors, drivers and attendants about concerns such as salary and benefits. Staff met with contractors last week, and a group of representative drivers and attendants on Wednesday, Oct. 20, to discuss concerns and work together to come up with solutions. A Nov. 17 meeting is set for CCPS to present both a short-term and long-term plan to contractors, drivers and attendants.

According to CCPS data, the starting pay for a bus driver in Charles County is $20.12 per hour. We believe this to be a competitive hourly rate for drivers in the tri-county area. CCPS also provides drivers and attendants with funding toward benefits, such as health and life insurance, retirement and leave.

“We are committed to working with our bus contractors, drivers and attendants to address and resolve concerns. In the past week, we have met twice with representative groups to collaboratively discuss concerns and will meet again on Nov. 17 to talk about options. It is important for our students to continue in-person learning after a period of 18 months without direct classroom support. It is my hope that we can resolve the concerns so students are impacted by the disruption as little as possible,” Navarro said.

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