City Gossip: EBR Bus System Wheels Do Not Go Round & Round

I guess the wheels on the bus are NOT going around in East Baton Rouge Parish. Children went back to school about the second week of August here in BR. It was a chaotic start due to a huge shortage of bus drivers, and also because of the heat index which has been above 100 degrees for most of month. The driver shortage is likely due factors such as the low pay ($19k starting annual wage ), lack of air conditioning in vehicles, worn down conditions of vehicles, and sweltering heat.

The first week of school parents and students were unfortunately dealing with bus route issues, including buses never showing-up, and long hours to and from school. Some students reported being left at their bus stop at 7am waiting for a bus that never came, and also not getting home until 6pm in the evening after dismissal. This resulted in an emergency school board meeting, in which President Dadrius Lanus heard commentary from parents and bus drivers.

This all came to a head on Friday, August 18th 2023 when more than 50% of bus drivers called in sick (196 individuals) in an apparent strike. The start of the school day had a 2-hour delay that Friday, and subsequently Monday attendance was cancelled completely. On both days Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse met with various groups to regulate the transportation strike. During the meetings he Dr. Narcisse gave the following comments, “We’re going to get this fixed. But I ask the community for some grace in trying to get it fixed. We’ve been up all day, all night, trying to problem solve,”.

It is unimaginable the stress this put on parents, children, and teachers as everyone scrambled to adjust to the fall out. Monday night, EBR Schools announced that school would resume on Tuesday, August 22nd. However, middle and high schools had early dismissal times until September 5th, to hopefully stagger the transportation needs of the school system.

Wednesday August 23rd, the school board proposed a staggered start time for the remainder of the school year. It would include start times between 7 am – 9 am to address the shortage of bus drivers for routes. Many bus drivers were not pleased with this proposal, as it disrupted the second jobs many drivers use supplement the low pay. One driver offered the following commentary, “If he would get on a bus, ride a route or two, he’d see what we go through. We are dehydrated on that bus. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. The kids are dying from the heat. They do the silliest things, and they need to get more mechanics to fix more buses. We have 100 buses broken. A 100. It makes no sense what they are doing up there.”

Currently we are all awaiting the conclusion of the meeting scheduled for Thursday August 24th. The objectives of the meeting are to address the 3-Tiered start times, vehicle upgrades (hopefully including ac units!), and the driver pay scale. Hopefully, all parties involved can come to an agreement that will prioritize the learning experience of the students of EBR!