By Kelsey Kushner

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Parents in Howard County, you may want to start planning now.

School bus drivers are fed up and are threatening to step down from behind the wheel again after they say the school system changed plans for new incentives to keep them on the road.

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“I love the kids,” said school bus driver Amy Turner.

Amy Turner has been a school bus driver in Howard County for 15 years and she says it’s a lot of hard work.

“Trying to drive all the kids at the same time, trying to pay attention to what’s going on with them on the bus,” Turner said.

After a planned sickout last week, Turner returned to work with a promise from school officials that every bus driver would get a $5,000 bonus. Half of it would be paid to them in 10 days and the other half would come on Dec. 31.

But instead, the school board approved a deal Thursday that stretches out the second half of their payments to just $250 for the next eight months — and decreases the wage overhead for contractors.

“They changed the whole proposal they submitted to the contractors and the contractors rejected to it. Now they sent it to the board and the board passed it. That leaves us with nothing,” said school bus driver Jackie Scott.

“We are finally getting back to work and we are finally getting a lifeline of support and we feel that has been pulled out from under us,” said Jared Defibaugh, school bus contractor.

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“We all feel blindsided by it, we do,” said school bus aide, Carole Holmes.

These drivers say they’ve gone without a cost of living raise and without health benefits.

“Most of the drivers can not survive off the income that we have,” said Scott.

“What are we supposed to do?” said bus driver, Peter Lee Adams III.

The pandemic put pressure on school bus drivers. Many picked up extra routes to ensure 42,000 kids make it to school safely without any extra pay.

“It’s only fair to give us what’s due,” said Scott.

And they say it’s time for school officials to start paying up.

“It’s important to have the right pay and the right things so we can do our job successfully,” said Holmes.

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Earlier this month, some of these same drivers staged a sickout demanding better pay and benefits. They’re planning another sick out on Nov. 29.

Kelsey Kushner