McGinley: Special needs students 1st access to buses in strike

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston County School District Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley said Friday that the only students who would have definite access to buses in the event of a driver strike would be those students with special needs.She also urged parents to be proactive this weekend and make plans for getting their students to school in the event the buses do not roll."We still don't know when or if a strike will occur," McGinley said. "At this time, we believe based on where the talks are, that we have to put people on alert."

McGinley said information will be sent out to parents and faculty, asking them to be ready in case bus drivers with Durham Bus Services go on strike Monday morning.

The district also asked that anyone with a CDL-S licence and an interest in driving a bus to call 937-6380 between{} noon and 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

She asked parents to be prepared to take their kids to school and pick them up, adding that it could mean thousands of extra cars could be on the road and hundreds of extra students walking to school.McGinley also asked businesses and employers to help by being flexible with parents' schedules and she asked drivers to be cautious in the face of extra traffic.

Officials from Mount Pleasant police said officials in the department had been involved in meetings with the district to make sure traffic problems are minimized and student safety is maintained.

City of Charleston police said officers had met with CCSD officials and developed a contingency plan to handle traffic problems that may happen due to a work stoppage.During the press conference, McGinley announced that schools will open one hour early and will stay open until every child is picked up."We will not close our buildings until every child is picked up," she said.She said the worst case scenario would be if a strike was called while students were already in school Monday. Other scenarios would be if the strike is called over the weekend, or an early Monday morning strike.

After the press conference, Wando High School Principal Lucy Beckham sent out a letter to parents that provided a list of alternatives to the school system's buses.

"Our best suggestion is that parents work with friends and neighbors to arrange car pools to and from school in case the strike happens," the letter read. "Another option is the CARTA buses which have pick-up points up and down Highway 17.{} The fare is $1.75 each way and the bus drops off at 35 minutes after the hour and picks up at 38 minutes after the hour on Carolina Park Boulevard{}in front of our campus."

Wando administrators said students who get to the school late will need to check in with staff and present a student ID. The letter also said special needs students would be the only students picked up by buses and that there were no extra parking places at the campus for students who opted to drive during a strike.

"We currently think that only special education buses will be operational during a strike{}and I am not certain that they will run on time. We do not have extra parking spaces on campus to offer additional student parking so that is not an option," Beckham said.

A hotline will be in place for parents in the event of a strike. That number has yet to be released.Michael Bobby, the district chief financial officer, said the bus company and the union are still talking.That's encouraging," he said. He said the district is still looking for out-of-state drivers through Durham as well as placing ads for local drivers. Bobby added that there are some people already on staff in the district with the proper certification.However, that information still will not give the district solid information on how many drivers are available. He also said there are three teams of people working together to gather information and determine the next day's strategy.

When asked about reconsidering the district's dealings with Durham, McGinley said the pending strike was a short-term issue, adding that it was premature to make a judgment about changing the deal with the bus company.