Nearly 400 Tacoma students left to find ride after 24 bus drivers call in sick

TACOMA -  Hundreds of families in Tacoma got a last-minute message Monday morning that left them scrambling to get their kids to school.

The important message was directed to parents with special education students at Tacoma Public Schools.

They were told that a shortage of school bus drivers on Monday meant that buses would not be picking their kids up for school.

The district says 24 out of the 56 district employed bus drivers all called in sick Monday morning. All 24 drivers transport special education students. That left other drivers doubling up routes and the transportation director picking up students. Despite those efforts about 375 special education students had to find their own way to school.

Because so many drivers called in sick at the same time some parents say it’s obvious the drivers have some sort of grievance with the district.

Q13 News reached out to Operating Engineers Local 286, the union, that represents the bus drivers. They declined an interview and did not answer any questions.

The school district says they were not given a reason for why so many drivers didn’t show up to work. But they are assuming that it’s over pay.

The district says they have a collective bargaining agreement with the drivers involved until August 2020. They say bus drivers this fall were scheduled to receive a 1.2% pay increase but the district says they agreed in good faith to raise it to 3.1% when they were not required to.

The impact was district wide but schools like Henry Foss and Woodrow Wilson High School had the most students impacted.

The district says they expect their drivers to honor the agreement and show up to work tomorrow but if they do not the district says they do not have a contingency plan outside of how they reacted on Monday. They say the district simply do not have any extra bus drivers sitting around.