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Bus driver sickout delays classes in EBR, prompts early dismissal for many schools

10 months 3 weeks 5 days ago Friday, August 18 2023 Aug 18, 2023 August 18, 2023 3:35 PM August 18, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Schools in East Baton Rouge were delayed for hours Friday after more than half of the district's bus drivers didn't show up for work. 

Tiara Battieste is a parent of an EBR student who says on Friday she was blindsided when her child's bus never showed up.

"I started calling my friends and my sister-in-law, and all of the sudden, buses weren't showing up," Battieste said.

In a press release sent shortly before 7 a.m. Friday, the school system said that teachers and other staff would be at schools at their normal time.

Hours later, the school system announced a 1:25 p.m. dismissal time for middle and high school students. Elementary students will dismiss at their normal time of 3:25 p.m..

The school system said 196 of its 375 bus drivers called out Friday morning, about 52 percent of its drivers.

The trouble started Thursday night when EBR school board approved a one time stipend for bus drivers, but many considered that a pacifier. Board member Katie Kennison is in that number. 

"The drivers are running four routes on average a day," Kennison said. "To come back to work tomorrow, to continue to make $19,000 a year, and they're going to get a check in November. How many do you think are going to come?"

Superintendent Sito Narcisse says money won't solve the problem.

"Just because you throw money at the problem, doesn't mean it's going to get fixed," Narcisse said. "We still have 161 vacancies, we still have buses breaking down. For us we want our employees to feel valued."

But many drivers don't feel valued. Many took their frustrations to the board.

"EBR is not taking care of us. I'm making $20,000 and I've been here for 12 years. Now that's not fair to me," a speaker said.

A spokesperson for the school district tells WBRZ that students will not be penalized if they are late or if they miss classes entirely on Friday. 

The sickout comes just a day after the EBR school board approved stipends for bus drivers, who had been pushing for permanent pay raises as the school system grapples with personnel shortages. 

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