One of President Joe Biden’s plans when taking office was to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. One school district took it upon itself to increase the pay for classified workers, which includes school bus drivers.
The Durham County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina last month voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for Durham Public School (DPS) classified employees. Pay will be increased for all employees who formerly earned less than $16.50 an hour, with employees earning less than $15 an hour receiving the largest pay increase.
“I’m grateful for the collaborative work with our Durham County Board of Commissioners to make this priority a reality for our staff,” said school board chair Bettina Umstead in a press release. “A minimum wage of $15 an hour will honor the hard work of our current staff and have a positive impact on our ability to recruit and retain great DPS employees.”
The average salary increase for employees amounts to $1,200 a year. In addition, this month employees will also receive back pay from July, the start of the new school year and fiscal year, through December.
Nearly 1,200 employees are affected by the pay increase. “This has been at the top of our list for a long time,” said Superintendent Pascal Mubenga. “We are profoundly grateful to Durham County for finding the resources to bring us to parity with city and county employees.”
Since schools shut down in March, school bus drivers at DPS have been working with other departments throughout the district to deliver meals to families, as part of the district’s meal assistance programs, Casey Watson, the communications specialist at DPS, told School Transportation News. While DPS remains in a remote learning module, very few students are attending in-person education at learning centers, and who require school bus transportation to and from classes.
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However, Senate Bill 37, introduced this month, would require all state school districts in North Carolina to provide daily in-person instruction to all students with an Individualized Education Program or Section 504 plan. The bill also outlines two plans school districts can decide on that include minimal social distancing or moderate social distancing for all other students in grades K-12.
SB37 states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that with mitigation efforts, the COVID-19 transmission risk in schools appears low. However, school boards would also have the authority to close individual schools or classrooms due to COVID-19 exposures on a day-to-day basis.