UPDATE @ 7:17 p.m.
Lakota schools won’t have a bus drivers strike beginning Wednesday morning.
The union representing the bus drivers approved a contract with the busing provider, Petermann, on Tuesday evening, Lakota said.
The Tuesday meeting came after Lakota announced Monday night the two sides had not reached an agreement. Then, early Tuesday morning, the district told parents that the two sides did indeed have a deal and transportation would be provided Tuesday morning.
But later Tuesday, district officials were forced to admit that the deal between the drivers and the transportation company still had to be approved, so a strike Wednesday morning was possible.
The vote on Tuesday evening avoided that possibility.
Lakota schools released information on its website Wednesday that included a video from Superintendent Matt Miller, who called the communication and the situation a “debacle.”
The Q&A on the site said the district is not considering changes to its transportation services.
“Lakota Schools has a multi-year contract with Petermann,” the district wrote. “We are always evaluating what is in the best interest of our students.”
INITIAL REPORT, 3:51 p.m.
Parents in the Lakota Schools were told a second time in about 24 hours they might need to scramble to arrange transportation for their kids to school the next day.
Superintendent Matt Miller said Tuesday the agreement between the district’s bus company and the bus drivers was only tentatively reached early Tuesday morning, so parents needed to prepare.
“While Petermann feels confident about tonight’s vote, we must prepare the district for another possible strike,” Miller said in a video posted to Facebook. “Please look for a communication later this afternoon from your building principal with specific details about drop off and pick up procedures, should we need to operate under an alternative transportation plan.”
Calling the on-again, off-again strike a “debacle,” Miller said officials were at the mercy of the bus company for communication.
“This is understandably frustrating both for you as parents and for us as a district,” he said. “Please understand that we are not involved in the negotiations so we are at the mercy of Petermann and the information that they choose to share with us. We can only share information that comes to us officially from Petermann representatives, not unconfirmed rumors.”
Miller said the district was told the drivers and Petermann had reached a deal over the weekend.
“At that time, there was no indication of a strike,” Miller said. “Yesterday however, we received word that some bus drivers were not satisfied with the terms of the proposed contract. Which is why we decided to send our first communication out yesterday afternoon.”
But after a vote on the new contract Monday night the strike was announced at 8:30 p.m. — some parents said they weren't notified until 10 p.m. — and at 1 a.m. the strike was called off and the district started notifying parents again at 5 a.m.
Buses were running as usual after parents were alerted by the school district the bus drivers would be on duty, according to spokesperson Lauren Boettcher.
Parents who commented on the Journal-News Facebook page said they were not happy.
“We are quite irritated,” one parent commented on the Journal-News Facebook page. “A little more heads up would be appreciated. Further, contracts should not be negotiated during a school year, especially with no backup plan, leaving possibly thousands of students without transportation.”
“There should have been a backup plan if the district chooses to contract out to a unionized outfit,” another wrote. “The district should be required to plan for these possible situations.”
“I understand the reasoning behind the strike,” another wrote. “HOWEVER that does not negate the fact that I have no clue how I’m going to get my 7th grader, 2nd grader, kindergartener, and myself all to work and school by 8am!!!”
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