WALDORF, Md. — As Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) gears up for the 2023-2024 school year, starting Monday, Aug. 28, for over 28,000 students, concerns over transportation disruption were eased through a collaborative agreement between CCPS and the Charles County School Bus Contractors Association (CCSBCA).

According to a press release by the CCSBCA, the potential disruption centered on concerns over bus contract details. Key issues included the absence of an eight-hour minimum workday for contracted drivers/attendants, an adequate cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) percentage, and a need for a multi-year contract.

To mitigate any service disruption, CCPS has decided to work with CCSBCA to develop a multi-year transportation agreement. This includes increasing guaranteed paid hours for contracted bus drivers and attendants to eight hours for the 2023-2024 school year, provided they cover a shift of four hours or more, regardless of whether they work eight hours. Drivers working less than four hours will be paid at least six hours. Furthermore, all contracted bus drivers and attendants will receive a 5% COLA, with contractors allowed to pay above these levels.

The cost to CCPS to enforce an eight-hour workday and provide the 5% COLA is estimated at $2 million. This sum will be sourced from within the current transportation budget ($400,000), and the remaining $1.6 million from instructional programs and staffing.

On Aug. 22, the Board of Education of Charles County met with Superintendent Maria Navarro, Ed.D., to deliberate on implementing an eight-hour workday. The Board concurred to support the new arrangements, emphasizing their commitment to continue working with the CCSBCA to develop a multi-year contract. During the Board’s executive session, discussions centered on the budget’s impact on various areas, with the Board standing against cutting extended-learning programs for students.

Superintendent Navarro stated, “A successful start to the school year for all students is my top priority. When students miss school, they miss instruction, and many rely on meals provided at school. It is my job to ensure all school-aged children in Charles County come to school and have resources to ensure they succeed,” also reiterating her continuous efforts to listen to concerns and strive for fair compensation.

Representing 24 privately owned bus contractor companies in Charles County, the CCSBCA had not seen any of the 24 independent bus contractors signing contracts for the upcoming school year as of Aug. 22. However, CCPS has begun to amend the previously offered contract, including the 5% COLA and eight-hour minimum workday.

Meetings between CCPS bus contractors, drivers, attendants, local officials, and a transportation task force mandated by the Maryland General Assembly have been ongoing for months. These discussions have addressed key concerns and advocated for an eight-hour minimum workday and 5% COLA. The task force agreed to a 45-day window for CCPS to address recommendations.

With these agreements in place, CCPS anticipates no interruptions in bus services when school begins next week. Further back-to-school updates for the coming school year are available at www.ccboe.com.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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