The South Carolina Board of Education has approved emergency regulations that allow school districts in Charleston and Summerville to use temporary school bus drivers should the current ones go on strike.
Charleston County and Dorchester County School District Two are two of only three school districts in the states which rely on a private company— Durham School Services— to bus their students. However, Durham’s drivers in those counties have voted to authorize a strike as their negotiations struggle.
The strikes have not occurred yet, but local and state officials say they are preparing, anyway. “It would make sense to be prepared,” board chairman David Blackmon said, “This is January. We have winter months. We don’t want students standing along the road without having transportation to school.”
The board approved the emergency regulations in a 10-0 vote. The 90-day regulations would allow Durham to bring in temporary drivers from out of state who do not hold a South Carolina Bus Driver Certificate. Education Superintendent Mick Zais says the drivers would still be licensed in their home state and would need at least two years’ experience of driving a bus.
Zais said he’s hoping the two sides can reach a deal. “There are a lot of parents who do not have the ability to transport their children to school and this certainly will be disruptive of the educational process… We have to put the interests of children first. Not the interests of adults in the system.”
The labor contract between the drivers and Durham expired back in August. Sticking points with the Teamsters Local 509, which represents the drivers in Charleston County, include pay, health insurance and working conditions.
Neither of the school districts nor the state is directly involved in the negotiations, which are between Durham and the Teamsters.