School bus services expected to return to normal as drivers' sickout ends in DeKalb

DeKalb school buses were parked up at the school district's headquarters in Stone Mountain April 19, when almost 400 bus drivers called in sick to demand better pay, retirement plans and working conditions.

Parents and students can expect school bus services in DeKalb County to return to normal this afternoon, as the three-day sickout by school district bus drivers draws to a close.

There was a 15-to-20-minute delay on some morning bus routes April 23, the third and last day of the sickout, district officials said. They expect no delays this afternoon.

The sickout, by bus drivers wanting better pay, retirement plans and working conditions, started April 19 and has resulted in the firing of seven bus drivers.

Just 63 of the 908, or around 7 percent, of the DeKalb County School District bus drivers and subs called in sick April 23.

Almost 400 participated in the sickout April 19, causing service delays of up to 90 minutes.

Dozens of children were left waiting at bus stops and many were absent from class as a result. Tests also had to be rescheduled.

That afternoon, seven drivers alleged to have encouraged and organized the sickout were fired by district superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green.

On April 20, 224 bus drivers called in sick despite the terminations and warnings from Green that there would be repercussions for not showing up to work without a doctor's note.

No more bus drivers have been fired by the district in regards to the sickout, a district spokesperson said April 23.

The district’s sub drivers, licensed district staff, and drivers from City Schools of Decatur stepped in to replace absent drivers throughout the sickout.

“We have been clear from the beginning,” Green said April 19. “We will keep an open dialogue with employees provided they work collaboratively and keep our children safe by reporting to work. Unfortunately, some employees chose another route, and that carries serious consequences.”

Green, who earns $303,000 a year, said DCSD bus drivers are paid well.

The district’s bus drivers make between $15.55 and $23.18 an hour, which equates to between $32,344 and $48,214 a year, before tax, for a 40-hour week.

Most school bus drivers work split shifts between 4 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“Our pay is comparable, in fact better, than many of the neighboring school districts,” Green said April 19.

His own contract expires on June 30, 2019.

DCSD is Georgia’s third largest school district, with about 102,000 students, 137 schools and centers, and 15,500 employees including 6,600 teachers.

It has a fleet of 1,084 school buses, which take 66,500 students on 899 different routes to 180 schools and centers per day.

There are 17,500 active bus stops in the school district.