COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Some students in Muscogee County stood in the cold as school bus pick-ups got off to a late start on Monday.
According to multiple sources, several school bus drivers have called in sick Monday morning, forcing the school district to send a pre-recorded message to parents telling them to expect late pickups.
"This message is to inform you that buses are expected to be late due to numerous bus driver absentees today [Monday]. Parents are encouraged to make preparation for delays or late buses for the morning and afternoon as safety is a priority for all students. Thank you for listening," the pre-recorded message says.
There is an alleged disagreement between bus drivers and the school district about pay raises, leading up to Monday morning.
Some buses have begun routes, but heavy delays are expected. In total, the school district employs 206 bus drivers. The school district says about 75 drivers called in sick Monday morning.
Following an afternoon bus driver meeting on Monday, the school district sent a media release detailing the incident, calling it "a higher than usual number of bus driver absentees Monday."
"According to the transportation department, the latest bus was approximately 45 minutes late and the average bus was approximately 25 to 30 minutes late," the media release said.
The school district's release also includes information related to a letter sent by the bus drivers, detailing "a set of concerns around bus driver pay."
"They requested an immediate $4 pay increase and other pay incentives. In addition to meeting with the committee of bus drivers, the superintendent personally sent a letter to all bus drivers acknowledging the shared concerns for all employees who have not received a cost of living raise for approximately seven to eight years," the release said.
The superintendent reportedly addressed the rumors of the "sick-in" during the meeting with the drivers, and asked them not to do it.
"I apologize for any inconvenience related to today's increased bus driver absentees and remain committed first to all of our students who we are fortunate to be able to serve," Superintendent David Lewis said. "I remain dedicated to continuing to evaluate concerns for all student and staff needs. As I identified in my 120-day plan last February, creating a plan to address compensation concerns for all employees is a priority that I share with our Board, but it will be balanced with a focus on working in the best interest of all of our students."