Appoquinimink School District parents were told Wednesday evening that bus drivers had voted down a contract offer and may strike as early as Thursday.
The system is now preparing for a strike, which will mean disruptions in bus routes and delays getting students to and from school, the system said.
“We have late-breaking news,” said Tom Poehlmann, director of the system’s Safety, Security & Operations in a email sent to parents Wednesday night. “First Student Bus Co., a school bus contractor who handles 26 routes for the District, contacted us late this afternoon to report that the Teamsters union representing their drivers has voted down a contract offer 27-23.
“The union is threatening to strike on Thursday and Friday of this week.”
The bus company told the district that it will try to invoke a 21-day cooling off period, Poehlmann’s email said.
That would be “an action designed to provide time to secure a mediator who will attempt to resolve the dispute.”
Appoquinimink spokeswoman Lillian Miles said the district tried to confirm all day whether the cooling-off period would indeed be invoked but had not been able to.
“We kept waiting, waiting, waiting to try to confirm with the union,” she said. “No one wanted to upset parents if we didn’t have to, but ultimately, we could not get confirmation about the cooling-off period First Student said it was going to try to invoke.”
The email said that families who have a child on a First Student bus were contacted last month to make them aware that a new driver and route would be instituted if a strike occurs.
“It will mean long delays in pick-up and delivery, because our remaining bus drivers will be picking up the additional routes,” he said. “But we are committed to get all children to and from school.”
The district’s Transportation team planned to work into the night sending detailed messages to families.
“Only those whose student(s) are affected by the strike will receive calls,” Poehlmann’s email said.
By 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, everyone should have received notification about the Dec. 9 buses.
If a family did not receive an email, its route is not impacted, he said.
“We recognize that many impacted by the strike may elect to drive their student to and from school on Thursday and Friday, so everyone should expect delays entering and exciting campuses. ”
The schools will have additional staff out and do their best to maintain a safe, steady flow of traffic, Poehlmann said.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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