What does it cost Lakota to bus its students each year?

The on-again, off-again bus drivers strike threat is finally over for the Lakota schools, and officials say the long-term contract with Petermann remains intact.

Lakota spokesperson Lauren Boettcher said the district is in its first year of five-year deal with Petermann, and the district’s cost is about $13 million this year. The district has contracted with the company since 2005.

Petermann is part of an international transportation company. According to the company website, National Express School has more than 22,500 school buses, serving in excess of 600 school districts. It takes more than 1.2 million students to school daily.

The district put out a question-and-answer section on its website Tuesday, anticipating queries parents might have while the bus contract was still in limbo. One of the questions was whether the district would stay with the company.

“Lakota Schools has a multi-year contract with Petermann,” the answer reads. “We are always evaluating what is in the best interest of our students. Any additional costs incurred to settle negotiations will not be passed on to Lakota. The contract between Lakota and Petermann sets annual caps on expenditure increases.”

RELATED: Lakota bus drivers approve contract, avoiding strike Wednesday morning

Another question addressed whether any changes to the contract or possible cuts in service are possible.

“We are not considering any changes to transportation at this time,” the district wrote.

The district has said repeatedly it has no involvement in the negotiations between Petermann and its drivers. Superintendent Matt Miller apologized for the confusing messages parents received about the strike earlier this week.

“I realize that our communication over the last 24 hours has seemed disorganized and inconsistent,” he said in a video. “This is not what you’ve come to expect from us and for that I am sincerely sorry.”

Petermann would not discuss specifics about the dispute or anything regarding what has gone on in the past week when contacted by the Journal-News. It also would not provide the new union contract. It released this statement: “The company is pleased to report that yesterday its bus drivers in Lakota ratified a 5-year collective bargaining agreement. We look forward to continuing to serve the students and families of Lakota Local Schools.”

Some people commenting on the Journal-News Facebook page were on both sides of the fence about the negotiations.

“Yeah let’s punish the children, many who have no way to school. It teaches them the important lesson don’t like something throw a hissy fit and put Innocent kids are risk to get your way,” one person wrote. “This should have been handed in a much better way. Sorry and I have friends that are Lakota transportation staff.”

Someone else replied, “Their not throwing a hissy fit, their fighting to make a living wage. Sorry if trying to feed their families inconvenienced you.”

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