Local News

Wake School Bus Situation Remains Unsettled

Posted September 29, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Technically, Wake County school bus drivers arenoton strike. Many of them just happened to be sick.

Dozens of drivers staged a sick-out Monday afternoon, stranding students across the county and disrupting literally hundreds of lives.

Wake County school leaders talked to reporters, including WRAL-TV5's Education ReporterYvonne SimonsMonday afternoon. They said the events which led up to the bus drivers' so-called "yellow flu" walkout are part misunderstanding and part incorrect assumptions about their efforts to recruit new drivers to fill 35 vacancies that still exist.

Wake County School Superintendent Dr. Jim Surratt says he wants all drivers to come back and be on their buses Tuesday morning to transport children to school. He said they need have no fear that they will paid less than new recruits or that they will suffer repercussions from Monday's action.

About 300 Wake Forest-Rolesville Middle School students boarded buses Monday afternoon, but no drivers joined them. Across Wake County at least 37 drivers called in sick due to a dispute over wages.

Surratt said the dispute is over.

Drivers had taken issue with an advertisement placed in the Sunday News & Observerthat offered $10 per hour in wages to new recruit. That amount is more than many veteran drivers earn. School Transportation Director Dr. Wyatt Harper told reporters the problem of recruiting new drivers still exists, but says that was not the way to go about it.

Dr. Harper made it clear that administrators now think the $10 per hour offer was a mistake, and that the offer has been rescinded. Anyone starting as a new bus driver for Wake County schools will start at a rate of $7.67 per hour.

The story is still very fluid, and continues to change by the hour. As of 6 p.m. Monday, some Wake County Bus drivers were staging a sick-out and say they are not on strike.

The informal action affected almost every school in Wake County. WRAL-TV5 and WRAL OnLine will continue to bring you the latest information as it develops.

Photographer:Ron Pittman