Hundreds of school bus jobs may not return until fall 2021, company says


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced hundreds of jobs in the Memphis metro area may not be coming back anytime soon.

In March, National Express, the parent company of Durham School Services, cut 489 jobs at four separate facilities in Memphis and Arlington in connection to the pandemic.

The layoffs have brought near economic disaster for Reginald Sykes.

He owns South Memphis Grocery at the corner of Florida and Mallory.

“It affected our business to the point where 20% of our customers were the bus drivers from this terminal. They. . .they stopped coming,” Sykes said.

Sykes says he would regularly serve drivers and mechanics from morning till night and considers them all to be like family.

“They eat breakfast, they eat lunch, then when they got off they’d get a burger to go home, cause most of the time they didn’t feel like cooking when they got home,” Sykes said.

The company notified the state last week that those jobs may not be back for several more months, saying they hope to “return to full operations by the fall of 2021.”

 That seems like an eternity to Sykes, who’s already had to cut his workforce down to two employees. Like many he’s watching and waiting, hoping there’s a COVID-19 vaccine before too much longer.

“We don’t know if it’s going to be several months or even a whole year, because until the schools go back, the children go back to school, that’s when we’ll know. Then the mechanics and drivers will come back,” Sykes said.

WREG reached out to National Express for comment.

“This school year has remained fluid as it relates to how we will operate amidst COVID-19,” a company spokesman said. “We are and have been working with our District partners to begin transporting our students safely back to school on the anticipated date of Monday, January 4, 2021.”

Shelby County Schools will return to in-person learning on Jan. 4.

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