CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Durham Bus Services and the Charleston County School District have come to a limited agreement to pay bus drivers for lost work hours due to school closures related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Durham had previously told its employees to file for unemployment insurance because of a dispute with the school district over how bus drivers would be paid during the closures.
Durham’s spokesperson, Edward Flavin, said the agreement will allow the bus service provider to pay its employees for lost school operating days from March 16 through April 3. However, discussions continue about payments beyond April 3.
“We appreciate CCSD’s assurance that our dedicated staff members are paid accordingly during this great time of uncertainty,” Flavin said.
A daily rate of $79,723.27 was approved for Durham to continue paying all of its employees and maintain a continuity of operations when school resumes, the agreement stated.
The daily rate covers current services like meal deliveries, WIFI bus staging, and IT bus support “up to the capacity being funded during shut down period.”
Payment for April 4 through April 30 will still need to be negotiated, according to the agreement.
CCSD budgets $18.6 million for transportation services each year. However, the money is paid to Durham monthly, according to its contract with the school district.
South Carolina schools will remain closed through April, according to state officials.
Gov. Henry McMaster and South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced the state’s schools will remain closed for the duration of the month of April and released the following joint statement:
“At this time, students, parents, and families should plan for South Carolina’s schools to remain closed through the month of April. Our dedicated teachers and school administrators have done a tremendous job in making it possible for our students to learn at home. We understand that the prospect of schools remaining closed for an extended period of time places stress and strain on parents and children. Rest assured, if there is any way to safely open our schools earlier, we will do that, but schools must remain closed to protect the health and safety of South Carolinians.”
“There are some issues to work out related to responsibilities of CCSD and responsibilities of Durham,” said CCSD spokesperson Andy Pruitt said.”Durham provided a proposal Wednesday, and CCSD responded today with a few questions.”
Pruitt said the bottom line was that CCSD does not want bus drivers to lose income during the closure period.
“Since bus drivers are employees of Durham Bus Services, CCSD staff members are in discussion with Durham officials to ensure that funds go to bus drivers' salaries to pay them for the routes that they would regularly drive,” Pruitt said.
The relationship between CCSD and Durham has become increasingly heated in recent months. In January, the district made it clear it wanted to move on from the company once its contract ends in June 2020. However, the bus provider has taken the fight to court, hoping to remain on the job in Charleston County.