Charleston County and Dorchester 2 schools will be open Monday, but students might not have a school bus to ride there.
Get ready: Charleston County and Dorchester 2 school officials don’t know whether a strike will happen Monday but say parents need transportation alternatives.School hours: Schools will open one hour earlier than normal and stay open until every child goes home.Stay tuned: Both districts plan to immediately notify parents through local media and phone calls if a strike is called. For the latest news about the possible strike, go to postandcourier.com.
Superintendents of both districts urged parents on Friday to make alternative transportation arrangements should unionized school bus drivers go on strike Monday.
Want to drive a school bus?
Charleston County and Dorchester 2 school districts are accepting applications for school bus drivers.In Charleston County, anyone who has a commercial driver’s license and wants to drive a school bus should email email@example.com or call 937-6380 from noon until 6 tonight, Sunday and Monday.In Dorchester 2, residents with and without a commercial driver’s license are encouraged to apply. The district plans to offer training to those who need their commercial certification starting next week.Applications are at www.durhamschoolservices.com. Click on the “Join Our Team” tab. Applicants also may contact the district’s Personnel Office in person at 102 Greenwave Blvd., in Summerville; by telephone at 873-2901 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neither leader knew whether a strike was planned, but both wanted families to be ready in case that happened.
“We can never be over-prepared,” said Charleston County Superintendent Nancy McGinley.
The threat for a strike appeared to be stronger in Charleston County than Dorchester 2, but Dorchester 2 Superintendent Joe Pye said he didn’t want parents to be caught off- guard.
“We don’t feel we’re in the same boat (Charleston County) is, but worst-case scenario, we want you to be prepared,” he said.
Both districts have a contract with Durham School Services to employ its bus drivers. The company and its unionized drivers have been negotiating on a new employment contract since last summer, and top company officials were in Charleston this week trying to reach a deal. That didn’t happen in either district.
Teamsters Local 509 is the union representing bus drivers in Beaufort County, Charleston County and Dorchester 2. Their local president, L.D. Fletcher, has not returned phone calls and messages since Tuesday.
Kara Deniz, a spokeswoman for Teamsters based in Washington, D.C., released a statement from Teamsters Local 509 that read: “We are working diligently at the bargaining table to resolve this, and we appreciate all the public support. The phone calls of support from teachers, principals and parents have been overwhelming.”
The union could let school officials know this weekend that drivers will strike, or that could happen before school Monday or in the middle of the school day, the last of which McGinley described as a worst-case scenario. Or drivers might not go on strike.
Regardless of the union’s decision, employees in both districts will be in “strike preparation” mode. Schools will open an hour early on Monday. School staff will be on site until all students are picked up.
“There are so many unknowns right now, but your children will be safe, and they will be supervised,” McGinley said. “That’s really our highest priority.”
If a strike happens, bus transportation initially only would be available for special-education students. School leaders said that would allow time to create transportation plans for the remainder of the district’s students. In Charleston County, 22,000 students ride a school bus; in Dorchester 2, that figure is roughly 16,000.
Both superintendents encouraged students and staff to carpool to minimize traffic, and they said they were looking at options for how to handle absences or tardies in case of a strike.
McGinley told Charleston principals to create site- specific plans to accommodate families, and she asked business owners and employers to be understanding. “If we work together, we can continue schools operation,” she said.
She said parents should pay attention to all local media outlets and the district’s website for the latest information.
Pye encouraged residents to see the ad in today’s newspaper for bus drivers, and training for those positions will begin next week. He asked residents to apply online.
He compared the potential strike to a Category 4 hurricane in the Caribbean that was projected to hit anywhere between Florida and the Carolinas.
Projections don’t show that the storm will hit here, but district leaders are making the necessary provisions in case it does, he said.
“This is a parents’ nightmare,” he said.