WALLED LAKE, Mich. -

All Walled Lake Consolidated Schools are closed Wednesday because a high number of bus drivers have called in sick.

District spokeswoman Judy Evola said more than 25 percent of their bus drivers called in.

"12,000 of our 15,000 students are transported each day, so we’re not able to have school," Evola said.

All students and staff involved in advanced placement testing were still required to report because the tests cannot be made up.

Prime time care was still offered for all students and families who normally use the service.

"This won’t happen again. We are putting together a contingency plan and we will be communicating that plan to all parents via before the end of today," Evola said.

When asked if she thought the sick-out was connected to the district's decision to privatize bus services, Evola said, "One could make that assumption."

Stay with Local 4 and ClickOnDetroit.com for updates to this developing story.

Walled Lake schools to privatize buses

The Walled Lake Consolidated Schools Board of Education voted 7-0 last week in favor of privatizing the district's bus services.

The district has faced strong opposition from bus drivers who argued privatizing bus services would not be not a good move.

Read: Bus drivers fight privatization at Walled Lake schools

Superintendent Kenneth Gutman said the move to privatize will save the district $1.4 million a year for each of the next three years.

"We love our drivers. They're outstanding. It's not personal," he said.

Sources tell Local 4 the bus drivers don't get paid for sick days that go unused at the end of the year, so many are using them now.

MEA statement on Walled Lake bus driver absences

“Neither the Michigan Education Association nor the Walled Lake Transportation Association knew about any actions being taken by the bus drivers this morning.  We learned about the absences along with the rest of the community. The recent decision to fire all the drivers and replace them with a private company has stirred strong emotions among both the employees and the community.  To replace the first school-related facesT students see in the morning with a for-profit company is a disservice to those students and the years of dedication by the drivers.”

--Aaron Sheposh, MEA UniServ Director for Walled Lake

Transportation letter from superintendent

May 2, 2013

Dear WLCSD Parents and Staff,

The District has been in negotiations with the Walled Lake Transportation Association since August 2012, and has conducted 13 sessions. Although good faith bargaining with the Walled Lake Transportation Association did not yield an agreement, every facet of the Transportation budget was thoroughly researched, and Walled Lake Schools’ administration recommended Dean Transportation to provide transportation services to Walled Lake Schools beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. Our Board of Education voted 7-0 to accept this recommendation and to begin the transition process.

Dean Transportation has an excellent safety record, will offer jobs to our drivers, and will compensate our drivers at a competitive rate. Please CLICK HERE for the attached document relative to this change.

State law requires the District to submit a balanced budget by June 30. We are currently working to finalize decisions regarding our 2013-2014 budget, with expected reductions to be an estimated $10 million. 

We are doing everything we can to make decisions that keep cuts as far from the classroom as possible, balance the budget, and continue to offer a quality educational experience for our students and families.

Respectfully,

Kenneth Gutman

Superintendent of Schools