ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Many bus routes in Howard County were canceled on Monday because of a “sick out.”

About 80 bus drivers called in sick, asking for better pay and benefits.

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“We had to take a stand and fight for what we feel like we need and what we deserve,” Bowen Bus Service driver Sharon Decker said.

Drivers told WJZ they don’t get any benefits and haven’t had a raise since 2009.

“There’s nothing appealing to drive a school bus anymore,” Bowen Bus Service driver Diann Withers said.

The sick out didn’t last long. The drivers got back to work in the afternoon.

They told WJZ Howard County Schools offered them a $5,000 bonus and there are plans to discuss benefits by the end of the year.

The school board has not confirmed these details, but school representatives and County Executive Calvin Ball said they are working on a plan.

“We’re going to continue working with our Board of Ed and our school system to address the issues that, not only impact our bus drivers, but also our educators, to create a safe learning environment,” Ball said.

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Howard County Schools sent an alert to parents warning them some routes may be affected Monday morning.

A parent we spoke with said her children’s bus did show up, but she took them to school anyway.

She’s all for better pay.

“I’m excited about that,” said Christine Mativo. “We love our bus drivers. We love our buses and we want them to continue.”

The bus drivers apologized to the students and parents for missing their morning routes.

They’re happy some of their demands are finally being met.

“We didn’t build Rome in a day,” Withers said. “You’ve got to take baby steps here. At least they’re acknowledging us. That was the big thing.”

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The bonuses are for drivers and attendants. they will be given in two payments. The first is expected in 10 days. The second on Dec. 15.

Jessica Albert