Parents whose children attend one of Long Island’s largest school districts, Mastic Beach’s William Floyd, could be driving them to school when classes resume next week.
William Floyd School District Superintendent Kevin Coster on Friday said the district would have no large buses to ferry pupils to and from school when the new academic year begins.
Only minibuses will be running, he said.
To smooth the way for parents-turned-chauffeurs, schools will offer one hour of child care before classes begin and after they end, “along with breakfast and after-school snacks,” he said on the school district’s website.
“Parents should begin to make alternate plans for transporting their children to and from school,” Coster said.
“If possible, carpooling is recommended,” he said, adding he hoped there would be no repeat of the bus strike of 2003.
The William Floyd district is the only one of Long Island’s 124 public school systems that has two starting dates. Students in kindergarten through ninth grade will start classes on Wednesday, and those in grades 10-12 will start on Thursday.
The transportation problem arose earlier this month after the district, with nearly 9,000 students, said it had hired a new bus company because the previous one had defaulted on its contract.
By Aug. 24, however, school officials said the replacement firm, Ronkonkoma-based Acme Baumann & Sons Buses, still lacked about one-third of the drivers needed.
Acme Baumann, they said, was having difficulties recruiting bus drivers because the union-negotiated benefits they offered differed from the package provided by their previous employer, Medford-based East End Bus Lines Inc.
Workers for the two bus firms are represented by different unions, and on Friday Coster said: “Unfortunately, the driver’s union, Local 252, has refused to make large-bus drivers available to Acme/Baumann.”
Neither Local 252, Acme Baumannn or East End representatives were immediately available for comment.
East End has disputed the school district’s explanation of what went wrong, saying it “supports the drivers and monitors of Local 252 and has been willing to transport the students of William Floyd School District but only if we receive payment for what we were contractually awarded."
Now, Coster said he also was negotiating with the two other firms that bid on the new contract.
“The district has been in discussions with multiple transportation vendors including Acme/Baumann, Towne Bus and First Student in an effort to be able to provide large bus transportation for our students when school opens.”
A spokesman for the district, James Montalto, explained that Acme could be disqualified if it could not fulfill the contract.
“We met with Towne Bus because we were told that Local 252 would allow its drivers to go to work for Towne if they had the large bus contract."
Pledging to keep parents updated, Coster said:
“It is our hope that Local 252 will be able to come to an agreement with one of these transportation providers for the large bus contract so our students and their families will not have to endure a repeat of the bus strike in 2003.”