A community message sent by MCPS was shared with The MoCoShow announcing the reinstatement of a benefit in support of school bus operators who drive extra routes. The full message can be seen below:
“Dear MCPS Employees,
I am writing to update you on vital steps Montgomery County Public Schools is taking to address an urgent and ongoing issue concerning delayed and canceled bus routes. The national challenge of recruiting bus operators, including school bus operators, remains. However, we are committed to ensuring our students get to and from school safely each day. I am pleased to announce the reinstatement of a pay bonus of $25 for school bus drivers who drive extra routes. I want to express my appreciation alongside Ms. Pia Morrison, president of the Service Employees International Union, Local 500, who worked with us expeditiously to reinstate this pay benefit.
Unexpected school bus driver absences have challenged the MCPS Department of Transportation to fully staff every bus route daily. Despite this, in the 48 days we have been in school, our drivers have completed 59,040 routes, with only 114 requiring a cancellation. I thank our transportation staff for their commitment to our student riders.
To help mitigate the problem and ensure a higher level of safety for students, I am pleased to announce the following measures we are putting in place immediately.
- Reinstatement of a vital driver pay benefit for any driver who drives extra routes during a morning or afternoon shift. A bonus of $25 will be paid in the morning and again in the afternoon for drivers making these extra routes. This benefit was in place for part of the last school year, but the agreed benefit ended at the end of last year. We are excited to be able to return this benefit to our drivers.
- Establishment of a “Sweeper Bus” program: For safety reasons, a bus will sweep the areas of affected routes to pick up any students remaining at bus stops whose families may not have received an alert about the change on the ConnectEd messaging system.
- Support from our Community Engagement Officers who will receive notification of canceled or delayed routes and patrol those areas for any students whose families did not receive the ConnectED system message. Officers will coordinate with MCPS transportation for a “Sweeper Bus” to pick up the students.
Key Members of the Team
Our drivers are valued members of our community who develop important relationships with their student riders. Board of Education members, my leadership team and I have spoken to our drivers, who have demonstrated their commitment to our students.
More to Come
Other innovative ideas are in the planning stages to implement important safety measures for our students, as well as to support the transportation staff. These ideas include enhanced route planning, professional development, and implementation of a “Walking School Bus” program that involves parent and community partners. The district also will pilot a bus app in December 2022 on 150 routes throughout the district. The app will allow parents to see their bus in real-time via a smartphone. Bus routes involved in the pilot program will provide feedback about their experience in the pilot program.
Recruitment Efforts Continue
Recruitment efforts to fill all open bus driving positions continue, and we are excited to have 37 new drivers in training. Recent hiring events on Nov. 3 and Nov. 7 have attracted even more interest in doing this work. (MCPS is the 14th largest school district in the United States, and has the 6th largest school bus fleet in the US.) Our school system has nearly 25,000 employees, which includes 1,195 bus operators and 580 bus attendants. Our bus driver heroes service all 210 schools, as well as 20 nonpublic and private schools throughout the area. Additionally, they provide transportation for school field trips and extracurricular activities, such as athletics, throughout the school year.
Through our “All Together Now, All for Our Students” approach, we have collaboratively developed these critical first steps and the planning for the future. I am so excited about the great work we will do together to support excellence for our system, staff and students.
Monifa B. McKnight, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools”