EBR students return to class Tuesday; some schools to dismiss early until Sept. 5
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Public school students in East Baton Rouge Parish returned to class on Tuesday, August 22, according to school leaders.
The school system announced 744 routes were run on Tuesday morning. Officials added 324 operators drove buses while 18 buses experienced mechanical issues. A total of 8 routes were not run.
Officials said that high schools and middle schools will dismiss early at 1:25 p.m. until Tuesday, September 5, after the Labor Day holiday. Meanwhile, all elementary schools will dismiss at their regular 3:25 p.m. time.
The announcement came several hours after a meeting took place between school officials and more than 1000 school employees at Glen Oaks High School.
Classes had to be canceled Monday, August 21, while the school system dealt with a bus driver shortage. More than half of the school system’s drivers also called out sick back on Friday, August 18, in response to the approval of a stipend instead of a pay increase for school transportation workers.
According to EBR School Board President Dadrius Lanus, officials heard the heartfelt concerns of bus drivers, mechanics, and cafeteria workers in an effort to resolve ongoing issues.
The EBR School Board had approved a stipend of $12,500 for bus drivers to be made in two separate payments. However, a plan was made to break the payment up into smaller monthly payments that drivers could begin to see by the start of their next paycheck.
“Biggest thing to take away is that our kids are going to be back in school, and our workers are going to come back to school, and we are going to continue doing what we need to do as a board to ensure that they are happy, that they are satisfied, and that they are safe on the job,” said Lanus.
A closed-door meeting took place between Superintendent Dr. Narcisse and leaders of different school unions on Monday night, as they work to move past their differences.
“I’m very optimistic,” said Valencea Johnson, President of the East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators.
“Well, I am optimistic,” said Angela Reams-Brown, President of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers and Support Staff.
Union leaders tell WAFB’s Lester Duhe’ that they are hopeful following their meeting with Superintendent Narcisse to discuss the bus driver shortage and ongoing issues within the district, which ultimately led to classes being cancelled Monday.
“We initially started talking about the stipend that the bus drivers are getting and how they want it dispersed, and then we went in to talking about the other people who work for the district, like your paraprofessionals, your teachers, support staff, clerical people. And, we pointed out to the committee that we met with, is that you’ve got to make sure that you take care of everybody. You can’t just take care of a select few,” said Reams-Brown.
“So, it was a struggle, but after today’s meeting I think that we are in a positive place to move forward. We are ready to get back to work and do what’s best for children,” said Johnson.
Board President Dadrius Lanus believes there are other things that need to be taken care of along with the payment issues.
“The surface level things are the things we have to get in front of. One, the buses that are on the road now that don’t have AC’s, we have 100 degree weather outside, we have to change that. One of the things I’m calling for all across our community is I’m asking everyone to please, let’s do water dumps at our transportation drop-offs. So that we know that our bus drivers always have cold water, our students always have cold water when they are on those buses. We need to continue to try and progress through those things. We asked our mechanics if there’s any specialty tools that you need, let us know now so we can get what you need. They asked for a shed, so they also continue to work on buses when it’s raining. That’s something we can accommodate. They also told us that they need to upgrade technology inside of the shop, so that they are pushing those buses out and they can diagnose them in a faster rate. Those are some things that we can do,” said Lanus.
Lanus says district leaders are also looking for any additional buses throughout the city that the school system could temporarily use. The district is also asking those interested in driving a bus or becoming a mechanic to apply now.
School union leaders are hopeful more solutions will come this Thursday.
“Main things, number one, pay increase for bus operators, pay increase for mechanics, pay increase for paraprofessionals. How that money is going to be dispersed throughout the year, instead of two stipends they’re going to give them an extra check once a month. And that’s what they want, they want all their money at one time. Then we’re going to talk about how we’re going to come back to school after the Labor Day holiday. We’re going to look at trying to bring everybody back to the school site for face-to-face learning. And then after that, we’re going to look at extending for maybe a month or so, on whether or not the kids are going to put in a full day at school. We’re proposing that middle and high school get off at 1:25, so that those buses can be available for both elementary, middle and high school students,” said Reams-Brown.
“I think that a lot of things that we want to come out are coming out, and all of that stuff will be on the agenda on Thursday. There’s going to be some things that are going to take place that are going to help our staff become whole in the district, or work towards becoming whole in the district, so we are satisfied with that,” said Johnson.
That special school board meeting to address transportation upgrades and employee pay will take place on Thursday, August 24, at the EBR Professional Development Center on North Sherwood Forest Boulevard.
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