Baton Rouge bus drivers furious over possible plan to change routes, start times for some students

Classes resumed Monday for East Baton Rouge students, but the work to fix the school system’s transportations issues is far from over.
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 10:55 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Classes resumed Tuesday for East Baton Rouge students, but the work to fix the school system’s transportation issues are far from over.

District leaders are considering a new proposal to make sure all routes are covered even with the ongoing driver shortage.

The Transportation Department held a Zoom meeting and shared a plan that has drivers on edge.

“I’m forced between a rock and a hard place,” said Pamela France, a 17-year veteran bus driver.

According to France, leaders floated the idea of staggering school start times. She said the proposal would have some schools starting as early as 7 a.m., to as late as 9 a.m.

This would also mean drivers would have more routes to ensure every child has a ride until the system can fill more than a hundred bus driver vacancies.

Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse said last Friday this is an idea they might have to explore.

“They’re going to lose a lot of bus drivers. They don’t have none now, they’re definitely not going to have any if they go to three-tier,” said Rochelle Dunn, a 25-year veteran bus driver.

“How about you all get on one of these hot buses, do a bus route for a whole week. Not a day, not two days, a whole week like we do, and you can see how it feels to be on a hot bus,” said Stacey Willis.

School Board President Dadrius Lanus said nothing is set in stone, but every option is on the table.

“This is not a game. Our kids are not a game. Our bus drivers and their livelihoods are not a game,” said Lanus.

The School Board approved a stipend for drivers and mechanics and even changed how it will be paid out after drivers protested. “If it’s not the best thing or for the best of our district for our kids or our bus drivers, then we’re going to have to scrap it and find something else to do,” said Lanus.Lanus said district leaders will continue work towards a permanent raise and other transportation solutions, but he says this will take time to figure out. He’s asking for more patience and trust that they will make the right choice. “We have to get this right. We will get this right, but we have to have clear processes from here on out,” said Lanus.

Thursday’s special meeting will take at 5 p.m. at the Professional Development Center off N. Sherwood Forest. Leaders decided to change locations to help accommodate the crowd that’s expected to attend.

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