Monday, May 20, 2013

Parents and students seeing yellow after bus driver sick day adds to the school year

Walled Lake schools must add June date after day lost due to absent bus drivers

Parents are expressing anger toward Walled Lake Consolidated School District after Superintendent Kenneth Gutman says they will add another day onto the school year due to bus drivers calling in sick on May 8, forcing school to close.

School officials said they had to cancel classes for the day after about 25 percent of the district’s bus drivers called in sick because there was no advanced plan communicated to parents for the situation.

A letter was sent to parents by district spokeswoman Judy Evola on May 16 explaining the extension: “After conferring with the Michigan Department of Education, we have learned, as a result of the lost day of instruction last week, that Walled Lake Schools does not meet the required number of days for the school year and we will have to add a day to make up the lost day.”

The district needs 170 days and 1,098 hours of instruction, Evola said.

The letter states that  if the district did not make up this time, it would cost them $732,745, or $113,449 per hour of lost instruction.

Evola said that Tuesday, June 11, is now a full day of school, and Wednesday, June 12, is a half-day of school, to ensure the district meets the state requirement.

One parent wrote on Facebook that her child already has to be on a flight on June 12, so he will be missing the day. Another parent said the district reacted to the bus driver situation poorly.

A main complaint is that the district should have known how many days they had left to use when they called off school on May 8.

In addition, the state requires the district to have 75 percent attendance on the day that has been added.

“This is not one of the ‘forgiven days’ — the state forgives a certain number of snow days, or power outages and this is not in that category, so we are encouraging our parents to please send their children for school for the full day June 11 and the half day on June 12,” Evola said. “We apologize and we realize this is an inconvenience; however, it is very important to comply with the state mandates of the 170 days and the 1,098 hours.”
Walled Lake Consolidated Schools is the largest district in Oakland County, with more than 15,000 students. The district voted 7-0 in favor of privatization of the district’s transportation at the beginning of the month.

There were 23 drivers that called in sick on May 8, but Walled Lake Transportation President Ann Ridge previously said the event was was not planned by the union and she believes the drivers were actually sick.