Prov School Board’s Hemond on Bus Strike, School Safety, & Need for 12 Month School Calendar
Friday, September 28, 2018
"We do have a dog in the fight, you know," said Hemond of the bus strike, which started on Thursday. "Our kids and families that are affected by the strike and you know these negotiations have been going on for the entire summer -- unfortunately they've not been productive in terms of avoiding a strike. It's not the first time we've had to deal with it [and it] won't be the last time."
"So our focus has been on preparing ourselves as best we can to deal with the 9,000 kids that no longer have a way to get to and from school that relies on us to do that and unfortunately we have no viable alternative," said Hemond. "There's no other company that can take on the amount of children that we need to transport so we can't just go to the next available bus company to do that and our focus has been on getting our resources and keeping all of our resources in the schools to make sure everybody's safe."
Hemond spoke to the board's plan to take up school safety proposals that are the outcome of a school safety assessment conducted in recent months; how the board views the importance and need to focus on the growing English Language Learners population, including the federal action recently taken; and why he believes a twelve-month school calendar ultimately is the only way to improve proficiency and results in Providence schools.
Related Slideshow: 10 Things You Need to Know About Providence School Bus Strike
What is the dispute about?
At the end of the day, the labor fight between the Teamsters Local 251 and First Student is about a pension fund.
The Teamsters want the company to make contributions to the union's pension fund and the British-owned bus company wants to make payments to a 401k fund.
Student First says the Teamsters pension fund is near collapse. The Teamsters say thanks to a major deal with UPS, the fund is stable.
What are parents' options?
For nearly 10,000 children, there are now no alternative transportation options being offered to Providence families.
Is RIPTA an option?
For some older children, RIPTA may be an option if the bus routes align with the student's individual travel path.
Parents should be mindful of the age of the child and if traveling alone on a city bus is appropriate.
Is Uber or Lyft an option?
According to Uber:
"A rider must be at least 18 years of age to have an Uber account and request rides. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older on any ride.
As a driver-partner in a city that doesn't allow minors to ride, you should decline the ride request if you believe the person requesting the ride is under 18. When picking up riders, if you feel they are underage, you may request they provide a driver's license or ID card for confirmation. If a rider is underage, please do not start the trip or allow them to ride."
What are the options for special needs children?
One parent with a special needs child told GoLocal last week that the city is offering no solutions.
As reported Saturday:
“We're definitely worried, we can't exactly put JJ on a RIPTA bus and say ‘have a good day’ even if we felt comfortable with putting a 12-year-old on the city bus,” Randy Lutz, a Providence parent, told GoLocalProv in an interview.
Lutz's son suffers from Cerebral Palsy -- "a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; or during infancy."
According to the official statement by the Providence School Department, “We are asking all families of school bus riders to arrange for alternate transportation. Please make sure that you provide your child's school with your updated contact information and the names of adults authorized for school pick-up.”
Where will the Teamsters be picketing?
Nick Williams of the Teamster's Local 251 says the picketing will be restricted to the school bus yard and will not include Providence public schools.
How long will the strike last?
No one knows, but at this stage, the fight over pension contributions seems to be a "death fight" issue between the Teamsters and First Student.
The bus company operates in 400 communities and does not want to set a new precedent.
How will sports and other programs be impacted?
According to the Providence School Department:
How will a strike affect field trips?
When a strike occurs, all field trips requiring school bus service will be canceled.
Will the strike affect athletics?
As we will not have transportation available, we will be canceling all middle school sports during a strike. High School athletes should check in with their coaches regarding revised practice and game schedules.
How will absences be handled?
According to the Providence School Department, "The district will treat the first three days of student absences caused by disrupted school bus transportation as 'excused absences.' Excused absences are still considered absences but they do not count toward student truancy."
Where to get more information?
A problem to report that needs media attention: email to [email protected]
Providence Schools Customer service: (401) 456-9100 x13122
Family and Community Engagement: (401) 456-0686
Transportation: (401) 456-9269
You may also email [email protected]. Questions about make-up work will be handled at the school level.
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