SUFFOLK, Va. – Thousands of Suffolk Public Schools students were absent Friday after 67 school bus drivers called out sick.
A Suffolk Public Schools spokesperson says 4,468 students were absent. Transportation was not provided to about 5,000 students.
School officials say absences on Friday will be excused.
Thursday night the school system sent out an announcement that some bus routes would be canceled because of the absences.
The canceled routes affect both morning and afternoon transportation. There are a total of 349 routes and 122 were cancelled.
Bus drivers told News 3’s Merris Badcock they repeatedly told school board members about their salary concerns during budget meetings this year, and many years prior.
Earlier this month, the board passed a budget which would give drivers a one percent to 2.4 percent increase in wages. However, many bus drivers say that is not enough, especially with increased health insurance costs on the way.
When school officials found out about the ‘sick out’, an emergency staff meeting was called at Kings Fork Middle School. Media was not allowed in, but News 3 talked to both sides afterwards.
“We wanted to tell them, ‘We consider you an important part of the team. The kids need you every day,’” said Bethanne Bradshaw, a public information officer for Suffolk Public Schools.
Bradshaw says the school board decided to give all drivers a 2.5 percent raise (instead of the original one to 2.4 percent raise). She also noted the Superintendent will create a Bus Drivers Advisory Committee, and they are encouraging principals to meet with bus drivers before the end of the year.