Superintendent gives update on school bus strike impact

 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Day 3 of the school bus driver strike in Providence–and the news isn’t good.

“I’ve talked to families. For many of them they can do it for a little while but it’s untenable over the long term,” said superintendent Chris Maher.

Some parents have had no choice but to keep kids home.

“Our attendance is taking a hit, there’s no way around it,” said Maher.

Superintendent Chris Maher announced Monday night that parents of students with disabilities will in many cases get reimbursed for transportation, or get additional academic services to help them catch up. 

When it comes to after-school sports, other districts are stepping up to help bus their students to Providence instead of vice versa.

“I think one day is too long for this, and I urge both sides to come back to the table to come up with a resolution so our students are not caught in the middle of this,” said Maher.

This all comes as First Student’s contract with the city is up for a two-year renewal. 

“The way that the current contract is worded, this strike is considered an act of God. It’s not the bus company’s problem. In my opinion this should be the bus company’s problem, and they should be responsible for providing transportation to our kids by some other means,” said Sam Zuriel, chair of the City Council’s School Department Oversight Committee. 

Zuriel says the city wanted First Student to assume more responsibility in case of a strike, but “there’s a lack of competition here. The vendor was able to say take it or leave it as far as putting in this clause.”

Maher says he’s reached out to several bus companies for temporary help, but none of them can handle Providence’s nine thousand students.

“It is a situation where the parents and the kids feel as if they’re being shortchanged because of disputes among the grown-ups,” said Zuriel.

The School Board had already approved the extension of the city’s contract with First Student before the strike began.

A spokesperson for Mayor Elorza confirms the mayor has requested the extension be put on hold in the City Council for now. She adds that any change of vendor would require the city to go back out and get all new bids. 

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