School Bus Strike Explodes — As Much as $750K in Damages from Fire
Friday, October 12, 2018
Frank McMahon, spokesman for the bus company said that the buses cost approximately $80,000 or more. The total cost of the damage may reach $750,000. He said the buses are insured.
The bus fire takes place as the First Student and Teamsters Local 251 enter their third week in an embattled strike that has canceled all bus service for more than 9,000 Providence school children including those with special needs.
The bus yard was shut down by Providence Police and Providence Fire officials who declared the site a crime scene. The fire began sometime around 7:30 PM. There are security cameras on the site, but the buses that burned are adjacent to a fenced area that borders the railroad tracks — potentially outside of the capture of the security cameras.
Backdrop of Politics
Both Mayor Jorge Elorza and challenger independent Dianne “Dee Dee” Witman weighed in on the fire.
“Several buses were on fire and have been since extinguished, the matter is under investigation. The Mayor was on scene,” said Victor Morente, spokesman for the Mayor.
Two weeks ago Witman began a constant refrain of criticizing Elorza's lack of leadership on the bus strike.
"How can a Mayor whose job it is to lead this city not want to take a position to resolve this issue?" said Witman.
"I do know 20,000 kids, and parents, when there's a strike have no contingency plan because this Mayor has failed to show leadership," she added.
Elorza's press office refused any comment on the bus driver's strike.
Witman went on to criticize Elorza's inability to make decisions, "The school teachers [labor unrest], the bus drivers -- the Fane Tower -- the only thing he seems to be adamant about is his selling the water supply. He's asking the people of Providence to come up with answers. He's a one trick pony. It's shocking -- that's he's staying neutral. Kids need to go to school. Parents need to go to work -- what are the teachers going to do?"
The Providence mayoral election is less than a month away and the pressure is mounting to resolve the strike.
This week saw the ACLU of Rhode Island, along with two other civil rights organizations on Wednesday taking three separate legal steps with the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) on behalf of students with disabilities who are caught up in the ongoing Providence school bus strike.
The complaints allege that the failure of the school district to honor its responsibility under the students’ Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to provide transportation to and from school violates federal and state laws protecting the students’ rights.
“Although the strike presents a challenge, it does not absolve the school district from meeting its obligations to students with disabilities. The District may not foist its obligation upon parents by requiring they find, and initially fund, alternate transportation. The law is clear on this issue," said ACLU attorney Christine Marinello. "With the strike now in its third week, the District must take proactive steps to meet its legal obligations – in Jeremy’s case and those of other students whose rights are being similarly violated.”
Also on Wednesday, the Providence School Committee moved forward to issue a request for proposals in order to potentially contract with a new vendor.
Presently, the existing contract with First Student has expired and the extension has yet to receive all necessary approvals. Over the past three years -- 2015 to 2017, First Student has been paid in excess of $30 million.
Related Slideshow: School Bus Strike in Providence - September 2018
- Witman Slams Elorza Over Lack of Leadership as Prov School Bus Drivers Move to Strike
- Meet the Mysterious Man Behind the Prov Bus Strike and $200M in School Contracts
- VIDEO: Elorza Has No Transportation Plan for Students as School Bus Drivers are Poised to Strike
- Providence Mayoral Candidate Witman on LIVE: Strike, Public Safety, Tax Breaks and More
- Parent of Special Needs Child Says Providence Is Offering No Support During School Bus Strike
- UPDATED: Elorza Invokes His “Political & Moral Authority”, Groups Threaten Legal Action in Strike
- In Seattle, Teamsters and First Student’s School Bus Strike Battled for More Than a Week
- Providence School Bus Drivers and Bus Company in Final Hours to Avert Strike
- Providence Teamsters Bus Drivers to Strike Thursday UPDATED
- BREAKING: Providence School Committee May Look to Replace First Student to End Bus Strike
- Prov School Board’s Hemond on Bus Strike, School Safety, & Need for 12 Month School Calendar
- School Bus Drivers in Providence Reject Contract, Teamsters Poised to Strike
- PHOTOS: School Bus Strike in Providence
- 10 Things You Need to Know About Providence School Bus Strike
- UPDATED: School Bus Strike Thursday, Bus Co. Blames Teamsters, Witman Blasts Elorza
- NEW: Prov. School Bus Drivers, First Student Spar Over Contract Negotiations
- NEW: Prov. School Bus Drivers to Vote on New Contract Tuesday Night
- NEW: Providence School Bus Drivers Reported to Work Before Late Cancellation
- EXCLUSIVE: Providence School Bus Drivers Threaten to Strike