INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Pike Township Schools declared an e-learning day for all students Monday and Tuesday due to a bus driver shortage, but the drivers say they have been calling out since Thursday due to concerns about their low pay.
The district initially sent out a statement on social media saying the decision was made “due to circumstances beyond our control.”
A Pike Township Schools spokesperson later confirmed to News 8 that a bus driver shortage was the reason why.
However, I-Team 8 spoke with several bus drivers who say they are on “strike” due to the lack of pay.
One driver told I-Team 8 they don’t make more than $400 every two weeks, and many don’t make more than $700 every two weeks. Drivers say the strike began Thursday, with nearly 22 bus drivers calling out every school day since then.
Jennifer Rubenstein, a mom of two kids in Pike Township Schools, says going back to e-learning is unacceptable after the pandemic kept kids home for an extended period of time.
“They’re having anxiety of going back to school and not going to school and sleeping in and then having to do virtual” learning, Rubenstein said. “Parents would be willing to put more into the tax fund if we need to pay these bus drivers more. They’re the ones that are transporting our children and trying to keep them safe.”
Parent Latajia Gomis agrees, she’s concerned about the quality of education her son receives when he’s not in the classroom.
“I came downstairs and I was like hey so what period are you in, and he’s like click, click, click, oh yeah I’m in 3rd period. So supervision is a concern of mine, how long are you in the class, are you actually completing the work?” said Gomis.
I-Team 8 asked what the school district was doing about the strike and got this statement:
“We understand that there have been rumors that our bus drivers are on strike; however, that information has not been shared with us. To the best of our knowledge, the issues we are experiencing are related to planned medical leave, illness related absences, and the universal bus driver shortage.
“When schools were forced to shut down due to COVID last year, our school board took special action to ensure that our bus drivers and other employees who did not work during the shutdown still received payment. Bus drivers who did work during the COVID related school building closure received extra compensation. Additionally, bus drivers who were employed during times of transitions from remote to in-person instruction received a pandemic stipend on Friday.
“We understand that this is a hardship for many families and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. As we navigate the various challenges presented by the pandemic and cold and flu season, our goal will remain to ensure that our students are provided with quality learning experiences as we prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff, and community.”
Statement to I-Team 8 from Pike Township Schools
All instructional, office and custodial staff were asked to report as usual.
On Monday afternoon, the district announced remote learning would also be in place for Tuesday.
On Friday, the district posted Friday afternoon on Facebook that students may arrive home from 15-20 minutes late due to a bus driver shortage.