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Edmonds School District rehires 3 bus drivers for special-ed, tech programs

Spokesperson: 'No one involved in this decision is naive to its impact on our drivers'

 

Last updated 9/15/2020 at 7:37am

Edmonds School District

On Aug. 14, 175 Edmonds School District school bus drivers received notice that their jobs – and health insurance – would be eliminated at the end of the month.

As of Sept. 11, the district has been able to recall three school bus drivers, said district spokesperson Harmony Weinberg.

"Two drivers will transport students to specific, out-of-district special education programs," she said in an email to the Beacon. "The third driver will transport some of our students who are enrolled in technical programs."

Drivers have held rallies in the past week at Edmonds-Woodway, Meadowdale, and Mountlake Terrace high schools.

"We were all excited to get back to work and see our students again," said Chris Walker, a driver for 12 years. "Obviously COVID is still an issue, but we never thought the district would eliminate us like they did."

Weinberg said the district is currently assessing and will continue to assess the need for staffing, including school bus drivers.

"The district is transporting some of its students to outside programs, and as transportation needs grow, we will continue to recall drivers," she said.

Weinberg said the district was forced to lay off the bus drivers in mid-August as it would not be transporting the majority of its students until it reopens for in-person learning.

The earliest that could happen would come Nov. 11.

"Funding for transportation is based on student ridership. When ridership falls, funding falls," Weinberg said. "Unfortunately, even when we can transport many of our students again, adequate funding to pay drivers this school year is not being provided by the state.

"Without additional state funding for transportation, we do not see how to restore operations without a budget deficit, even with the drastic bus driver layoffs the district enacted in August."

She added that the state has now allowed transportation funding to be used for purposes other than transporting students to and from school, like the delivery of meals or technology.

"However, no additional transportation funding has been provided to cover such costs," she said. "As transportation funding is already projected to fall far short this school year, the change does not support the recall of any school bus drivers."

Unless the state changes the level of transportation funding for this school year, Edmonds School District faces a severe transportation funding deficit, the district said.

"The district remains unable to recall school bus drivers unless there is work for them to do transporting students," Weinberg said.

"We are extremely disappointed we cannot support our dedicated and committed school bus drivers at this time. No one involved in this decision is naive to its impact on our drivers.

"We are anxious to recall them and get them back to work supporting student learning. The district will continue to evaluate the situation and welcomes new funding and supportive guidance from the state."

This story will be updated for the Sept. 17 edition of the Beacon.

 

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