Lakota district prepares students and parents for potential busing issue

Due to budget reductions years ago, Lakota already does not provide busing for its students in grades 10-12.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Butler County’s largest school system may lose its busing Friday for thousands of students due to a strike by drivers.

A vote between Lakota School’s contracted bus provider and its drivers’ union is scheduled for today, Aug. 30, with the prospect of no transport of students the following school day should the union reject the proposed labor pact from Petermann busing company, said Lakota officials.

In a letter sent to school families in the 17,500-student district, which is the second most populous in southwest Ohio and ninth largest in the state, the leader of Lakota said parents should be prepared for the cessation of all busing on Friday.

“Having been told that a strike is still possible, we wanted to prepare you for this potential news and what it may mean for your family,” wrote Elizabeth Lolli, interim superintendent for Lakota, in the message to school families sent earlier this week.

“If Petermann’s employees do in fact choose to strike, Lakota will not be able to provide transportation for our students in kindergarten through ninth grade until the drivers return to work,” said Lolli.

“We understand that this will put an enormous burden on our parents who rely on busing for their children. Should a strike occur … we will communicate this information to our families as soon as we are notified through all of our normal communication channels (district website, email and social media) and students will not be marked tardy or absent if they are unable to find transportation to school on the day(s) the strike is in force.”

Due to budget reductions years ago, Lakota already does not provide busing for its students in grades 10-12.

If bus drivers do strike, it will be first labor stoppage in decades by those who operate Lakota’s school buses.

Lolli said “if a strike occurs, students who attend classes at another building will not travel to the other school. More information will be shared as we look at alternative options for these classes and we are assessing our ability to participate in athletics during a possible strike. Parents will receive more information from their schools and teams as it becomes available.”

“Should busing be impacted on Friday morning, please be patient during drop-off and pick-up due to the increased number of vehicles. Also, please consider using carpools to get students to and from school. If some drivers choose to work, regardless of the strike, our first priority will be to provide transportation for our students with disabilities.”

“We have now been told that there is a possibility that the contract will not be approved when the drivers vote on Thursday night. If that is the case, the drivers may choose to return to the negotiating table or they may choose to strike.”

Lolli added: “Along with Petermann, we remain optimistic that the vote will pass as the demands for money have been met. It is our understanding that the negotiations have been centered on accountability and safety components that Lakota has requested of Petermann.”

Lakota officials will notify school families of the outcome of Thursday’s vote and the next steps and options for student transportation.

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