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Schools Chancellor "Concerned" About Potential Bus Drivers' Strike

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TWC News: Schools Chancellor "Concerned" About Potential Bus Drivers' Strike
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The city Department of Education says it is ready for a potential strike by school bus drivers.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Sunday he was concerned a strike by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 could occur this week, and he has already made alternate plans to get more than 152,000 children across the five boroughs to class.

If there is a bus strike, Walcott said all students with interrupted bus service will get a MetroCard from the school's general office.

Parents of children in kindergarten through second grade and individualized education programs will also get MetroCards.

The DOE has alerted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prepare for increased subway ridership.

Also, parents who live too far from public transportation will be reimbursed if they choose to drive their children, at a rate of 55 cents a mile.

Local 1181 officials are displeased that the city reopened bus contract bidding without a long-standing seniority clause, which protected the jobs of certain drivers.

Mayor Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Walcott have argued the provision is illegal, but union officials disagree.

By Sunday evening, Local 1181 officials said they did not intend to strike, but said they would if the city refuses to negotiate.

"The union has said, 'Well, maybe on Monday, well maybe Wednesday, maybe we'll do it, maybe we won't do it.' They're jerking our kids around. We can't allow that to happen," Walcott said. "I'm not going to allow that to happen."

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio weighed in on the side of the union on Sunday, saying the job protections are important.

He says in a statement, "The City needs to stop stonewalling on safety and recognize what every parent knows: experience matters. These protections ensure that no matter what happens with bus companies, we have the most experienced drivers behind the wheel who know our kids and their special needs. Parents don't need the mayor’s brinksmanship. They need a fair contract that keeps the best drivers behind the wheel."

Education officials said in case of a strike, affected children would be allowed a window of two hours to get to class before their attendance record would be impacted.

All field trips would be canceled with no busing and after-school programs would continue but be without busing as well.

DOE officials would also post materials from every grade and core subject online for students who would not be able to attend classes.

The city public school system has the second-highest number of bus routes of any transit system in the world.

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