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Dozens of Jefferson Parish School bus drivers call out sick, demanding pay raise

Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 10:28 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Dozens of bus drivers called out sick Thursday (March 3) afternoon before picking students up from Jefferson Parish Schools.

They’re joining the ranks of bus drivers across the area demanding a raise in pay as their operational costs soar.

“It shouldn’t be so last minute there should be some type of backup plan in place and there never is, you know, and that is extremely infuriating, especially when I don’t know where my child is,” Parent, Vedella Walton said.

Walton was in a panic. She got the call from West Jeff High School 30 minutes before school ended that her daughter didn’t have a bus driver and needed to be picked up.

She sent an Uber, but her daughter wasn’t at the school.

She says she’s frustrated with the lack of communication because no one told her that her daughter was put on another bus home.

“If my child is brought to school by a school bus, I shouldn’t be scrambling to find a way to get them home at the last minute, but I can understand the situation and I do sympathize with them [the drivers], but this is my child safety that we’re talking about,” Walton said.

64 routes were impacted by the day’s sickout. Jefferson Parish Schools says it wasn’t officially communicated to them why.

“We got to do something,” owner/operator Everett Armand said. “Y’all won’t listen to us. The board is not listening. Everybody wants to say okay, what’s going on? Y’all know what’s going on.”

Armand, an owner/operator for almost 22 years says his pay hasn’t gone up, but his costs have

“We are professionals that hold a CDL driver’s license and we get paid, like, we can go to McDonald’s and make more money than what they paying us and this is ridiculous,” Armand said.

When Armand started in 1993, a tire used to run him $125, now, it’s nearly $500.

The drivers told me they often have to take loans out to make major repairs and are charged $60 a day for a rental bus.

“I was out for three weeks, costing me $60 every single day that I was out for a rental bus while my bus was being fixed and $3,700 to fix my bus, and then the next year, my high pressure oil pump went out that was another $3,500 and more rental fees,” owner/operator Laura Patrick said.

They also say their fuel allotments are shrinking and they are only given a gallon of diesel to cover a route.

“We’ve been bullied on the job, we’ve been forced to cover routes and we’re not getting compensated for it,” Armand said. “They’re not paying us the wear and tear on our buses. It’s getting to the point where we can’t keep them on the road.”

The state’s portion of operational pay hasn’t been raised by the legislature since the 1980′s, But Senator Patrick McMath has authored new legislation that could raise it as soon as the next school year.

Right now, these Jefferson Parish drivers want a $10,000 raise as well as $60 dollars for every day they have to cover routes.

Without it, Armand says they are losing the battle.

“Our bus is eating all the money up and it’s getting hard to pay bills and everything,” Armand said. “They need to pay us some a salary where we can afford to live and right now, we’re not living.”

Jefferson Parish Schools sent us this statement that was sent out to families:

JP Schools Families,

We wanted to make you aware of a potential disruption to bus transportation. We received information today about a potential bus driver sick-out this afternoon and tomorrow. At this point, we have not received official notice from any representative of the bus drivers as to the reasons for this threatened job action.

We notify families about bus service interruptions as soon as we learn that a route will not be serviced. Should a bus driver notify us that they will not drive their assigned route, the district will notify families via a robocall to drop off and/or pick up their child(ren). In the event that a bus driver does not notify the district that they do not intend to cover their assigned route, schools will notify families as soon as possible so that families can arrange to drop off and/or pick up their child(ren). If your bus route isn’t covered and you are not able to drop off your child(ren), your child(ren)’s absence will be excused.

Safe, reliable transportation is one of the main operational functions of a public school system. Over 30,000 families rely on us for transportation every day. Anything short of a full fleet on the road is unacceptable for us. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our families, and we thank you for your flexibility and understanding.

Jefferson Parish Schools

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