CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The State Board of Education has waived some state certification requirements for out-of-state bus drivers, at the request of the Charleston County School District, in the event of an imminent work stoppage. The request was approved during a board hearing Wednesday morning, according to Live 5 News partner WIS-TV in Columbia.
Durham School Services provides drivers for Charleston, Dorchester District 2, and Beaufort counties. The Charleston County School District is not directly involved in negotiations but is taking measures to keep parents informed with the latest information.
At a press conference Wednesday, Charleston County School Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley, said a strike is highly possible.
"Its time to begin thinking about an alternative strategy for getting your child to and from school," said Dr. McGinley.
According to the state board, if the strike was to happen, there would not be enough time to certify bus drivers without causing school to be canceled in the affected areas.
Letters have been given to principals in Charleston County to send home with every student telling parents what to expect if a strike does happen.
McGinley said, "The reason we are being proactive is that we want people to recognize that we might not find out until the actual morning of the strike."
The district will rely heavily on social media like Facebook and Twitter to send updates. They will also utilize Parent Link, the system used to send phone messages to parents. The phone number that is on the student's emergency contact form is the number the district will use to sending out messages.
Michael Bobby, the school district's Chief Financial Officer, said they are looking at more ways to run routes and to adjust the school day if need be.
"Not all of the drivers are in the union, not all union drivers may honor the strike. What happens in the event that there are such thing, we just won't know how many will choose to go to work that day," said Bobby.
186 Durham School Services union drivers voted to authorize a strike in Charleston County should contract negotiations fail. Transportation officials say the negotiations have been ongoing since this past July, and a resolution or strike is expected on Jan. 28th.
The bus driver's union in Dorchester District 2 also voted 77-0 Tuesday to authorize a strike there if a deal is not reached, according to Teamsters Local 509 Agent Sabrina Isom.
We reached out to Dorchester District 2 officials on Tuesday for a comment, but they said they would not be making a statement until they had gathered more information on the situation.
Director of Student Transportation Curt Norman says that the union is asking for an increase of 44% in salary and benefits in the first of a three year contract extension, and additional increases of 20% in each remaining year.
Norman says Durham School Services has agreed to bring in 24 to 30 non-union drivers from other states in the Southeast.