Roanoke Co. Schools Superintendent: Bus Driver Sick Out, An Isolated Event

Roanoke Co., VA - The Superintendent of Roanoke County Schools said Friday she believes the "sick-out" held by nearly 40 school bus drivers, was an isolated incident.

Administrators were forced to dismiss schools early following nearly 40 drivers calling out sick on Friday. This all came on the heels of that County's school board reducing benefits for part-time employees.

"Very crazy and I can't imagine what the other parents are going through" said Whitney Prillaman-Lynch who had to pick up her child early.

Moms and Dads scrambled to pick up their kids after nearly 40 Roanoke County schools bus drivers called in sick after their morning drop-offs Friday.

"You know, with their full time jobs that you're not allowed to leave and you're called and told, 'You don't have a choice. You have to get your kid. There is no hour or two from now, you have 30 minutes to get here and get your kid; period" said Lynch.

"This irresponsible action on the part of these bus drivers had the effect of stranding the children at their schools until their parents made arrangements to pick them up. It is clear the drivers who engaged in this sick out intended this result" said Roanoke County School Board Chairman, Drew Barrineau.

The County School Board and Administrators addressed Friday what they dubbed the "sick-out"; an apparent school bus driver demonstration, protesting a reduction in benefits to the school system's part-time employees.

Bus drivers work 20 hours a week, and receive full-time benefits. The school board though voted Thursday, effective July 1st, to slash benefits to part-time employees.

Barrineau saying the cut was all a part of a larger attempt to save the system's struggling finances.

"We're not like the state that can pass along responsibilities to somebody else, it ends with us and we're at a point where we have tough decisions to make" he said.

"They've had full health and full retirement, not many companies do that. In the last four years we've cut our budget $14.5 million, we've closed three schools, we're down 250 employees" said Superintendent, Dr. Lorraine Lange.

Lange considered the sick-out an isolated incident. But, she says if it happened again, "and drivers do not come back, it could be considered a strike" she said.

A strike, under Virginia law, is illegal and would be grounds for firing. Lange said all 40 drivers were contacted Friday, and said they would be back to work on Monday.