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Contracted Sullivan bus drivers may not be paid during closure

Rick Wagner • Mar 30, 2020 at 1:45 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Whether Sullivan County’s privately contracted bus drivers get paid during the coronavirus pandemic school closure is solely up to the contractors, the leader of the school system explained.

The action by the Sullivan County Board of Education Thursday evening in a called meeting to pay all employees covers bus drivers employed by the school system but is not binding on private contractors employing the bulk of drivers, Director of Schools David Cox said Friday.

An article in the Times News Friday incorrectly reported that contract bus drivers would be paid under the BOE’s action. However, a bus driver contacted the Times News and said his contractor told him he would have to file for unemployment.

Cox said the vote Thursday means all county school system employees, including hourly ones, would receive their regular pay during the closure that will end no earlier than April 27. That would include special education and a few regular bus drivers who work directly for the county, but contracts with private bus contractors say that when on extended school closure, the school system will pay the bus companies half the normal amount.

“It’s up to the individual contractors on what to do,” Cox said.

 “We don’t set the amount that the contractors pay the drivers,” Cox added. “We contract for the different routes and services. ... If the bus driver is working for a contractor, it’s up to the contractor.”

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