During the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ regular Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Board members adopted a recommendation by the Transportation Optimization Committee to raise bus driver pay to $20 an hour. They also heard public comments about recent antisemitic incidents at CHCCS schools.
- Hunter Klosty, a student at East Chapel Hill High School and vice president of the Student Government Association, called upon the Board of Education to remedy their "failed governance" regarding equity policies on campus.
- Klosty said the Board has been hypocritical and complacent regarding matters of diversity, equity and inclusion. He criticized CHCCS’s partnership with Apex Learning, which Klosty said disadvantages students by compelling them to pay for courses that are offered for free through North Carolina Virtual Public Schools.
- Some Culberth Middle School parents, including Parent Teacher/Student Association President Jill Simon, requested that the Board of Education condemn, address and combat recent antisemitic incidents in CHCCS high schools.
- During public comment, multiple community members said they have observed patterns of microaggressions, vandalism and the use of slurs by students at Culberth Middle School. These parents recommended that the Board investigate these behaviors and better inform the community. Another request was that the district strengthens its task force on combatting hate speech.
- “Antisemitism is real and prevalent in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools,” Simon said. “It is handled poorly, slowly and clumsily and it needs to be addressed in a way that makes our children feel safer and valued.”
- André Stewart, CHCCS’s chief operations officer, presented recommendations to the Board of Education for addressing the bus driver shortage’s impact on area schools.
- He recommended that the school system optimize the bell schedule by staggering class start times, consolidating bus stops, increasing driver pay to $20 per hour and implementing a transfer shuttle model for some students.
- Stewart also suggested partnering with custodial and service workers to expand the bus driver workforce. If this recommendation was adopted, the district would offer dual roles for custodians and teacher assistants, who could acquire Commercial Driver's Licenses at the expense of CHCCS.
- “We want to keep what we have and then be able to add to it,” Stewart said.
- The Board members acknowledged the necessity of a pay raise as a first step toward resolving the bus driver shortage. However, several Board members said the bell schedule change recommendation, which would entail earlier start times for students, would burden teachers and present other logistical challenges.
- “I have very serious concerns about earlier start times,” Board member Rani Dasi said. “I think we will push the problem from bus drivers to teachers. I don’t want kids getting up in the dark.”
What decisions were made?
- The Board moved to accept the first of the Transportation Optimization Committee’s recommendations, which means that CHCCS bus drivers will now be paid $20 an hour.
- Recommendation 1 also consolidates nearby bus stops and allows 18-year-olds to become bus drivers.
- The Board decided to consider exploring Recommendations 2 and 3 via Policy 2020, in the context of a public hearing.
- Recommendation 2 would require seven elementary schools to start at 7:30 a.m. and four schools to start at 7:50 a.m. to streamline bus operations.
- Recommendation 3 would implement a transfer model for magnet schools — all students in a neighborhood, regardless of their school assignment, would share a stop. Magnet school students would then be transported to their schools by transfer buses.
- The Board unanimously voted to adopt the consent agenda, which included second readings for policies about child abuse, the children of military families, drug and alcohol testing of commercial motor vehicle operators and school reassignment.
- The CHCCS Board of Education will meet for a joint session with the Orange County Board of County Commissioners and Orange County Schools on Feb. 28.