By Matt Tomsic
Published Jan. 23, 2013
The Charleston County School District will be able to use out-of-state bus drivers if local drivers strike.
The State Board of Education voted 10-0 to approve an emergency regulation that would allow out-of-state bus drivers employed by Durham School Services to bypass the required 20 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of supervised driving to become licensed in South Carolina.
“If no agreement is reached between the Teamsters union and bus drivers, according to the best information available to the department, the strike will start on Jan. 28,” said state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.
The vote came in response to ongoing labor negotiations between Charleston County school bus drivers and their employer, Durham School Services. The labor contract expired in August, and Charleston County bus drivers voted to authorize a strike in mid-January. Sticking points include pay, health insurance and working conditions, and contract talks resumed this week. Earlier this week, Summerville school bus drivers also voted 77-0 to authorize a strike. They bus children for Durham School Services at Dorchester School District 2.
The regulation will only be valid for 90 days. The school district is asking that the regulation require drivers to be licensed in another state with the appropriate endorsements, present a driving record from his or her resident state, present a background check and have a minimum of five years’ driving experience with at least two years’ experience as a school bus driver, among other requirements.
Zais said the regulation allows the districts to be flexible during the possible strike, and a similar situation hasn’t happened during his two years as superintendent.
“I’m hoping the union will not strike,” he said, adding it would most impact children and their parents.
In a letter to the State Board of Education, the school district’s Student Transportation Director Curt Norman said Durham School Services has agreed to bring between 24 and 30 nonunion drivers from other states in the Southeast to temporarily replace the Charleston County drivers if they strike.