Schools Superintendent: Bus Strike Possible Thursday

Westport Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer sent this message to all students and parents a few minutes ago:

I wish to advise you of the potential for a strike by the school bus drivers employed by our bus service company, Dattco.  If, in fact, collective bargaining between the bus company and the driver’s Union fails to reach resolution by midnight Wednesday, April 26, THERE WILL NOT BE REGULAR BUS SERVICE to transport your children to and from school beginning Thursday morning, April 27.  The only exception will be those special education students currently accessing specialized transportation, for whom the district will continue to provide transportation during the strike.

Should the strike take place, school will still be open on Thursday.  I ask you to arrange transportation to get your children to and from school, if at all possible. I urge you to consider forming car pools during this critical period.  While it may be tempting to have your students exit your car in proximity of the school campus, please continue to ensure the safe drop-off of your children by waiting in line to pull up to access the official drop-off area.  I also ask that any students who do not normally walk to or from school refrain from doing so during this time period.

In the event that you have no means to provide transportation for your student(s) during this period, the District will have very limited resources with a handful of drivers to pick up students individually. These ad hoc runs may not be able to get students to school on time, and may, in some instances run an hour or two after start time.  Individuals seeking support for transportation should contact their respective school administration as soon as possible on Wednesday.

The Westport Police Department has arranged to provide additional traffic officers to direct traffic at high volume locations to ease the strain of traffic on our local roads and at each of our school sites.

I urge you to make every effort to have your children arrive at school approximately 30 minutes prior to their normal school start times so that all of your children’s school activities may take place in accordance with their regular school schedules. To accommodate the increased automobile traffic that is anticipated with parent drop-offs you may use both the parent drop-off area and the bus loop at each school in the morning during this period.

Staff members will be in each of our schools to accommodate and handle the arrival of students who may arrive earlier than their usual arrival times.  Also, if our community does need to deal with a bus driver strike, we understand that some students may be upset if they arrive late to school with traffic delays, etc.  Please assure your student(s) that they will not be penalized in any way for arriving late during this time period.

If a strike does take place, all before and after school activities at the elementary schools will be canceled.

Specifics as to the arrangements surrounding drop-offs and pick-ups and other pertinent information will be emailed to you by your building principals on Wednesday, April 26.

Should we learn before 12:01 a.m. on Thursday that a strike has been averted, we will notify all families via email and will place a message on our SNO-LINE, (203) 341-1766.

Should there not be a settlement by 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, April 27, we will notify you through a telephone message, email, and text that you will need to make alternative arrangements to get your students to school and to pick them up at the end of the day, as described above.

Again, I urge you to do your best to form car pools in the event this potential strike actually occurs.  Individual principals will follow-up tomorrow with more specific plans regarding arrival and dismissal at each school.

In the event the strike occurs and extends more than one day, we will assess the viability of continuing to have our schools open based on the feedback from operations of Thursday, and the number of students for whom the lack of transportation resulted in them not attending school.  No matter what, the safety of your students is first and foremost.  If you cannot find a safe way to arrange for your student to attend school, please contact the school administration.  In those circumstances, your student’s absence from school will not count against him/her.

Our students will follow our lead in how we handle this possible challenge.  If we communicate that we have to be flexible and adaptable in our problem-solving, and our students know that they will be not held accountable for any disruption to their day caused by this situation, perhaps they will learn from this how to strategize for success instead of stress over obstacles.

(Photo/Robert Jacobs)

18 responses to “Schools Superintendent: Bus Strike Possible Thursday

  1. Start walking kids !!!!!

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      I’ll let my son know he needs to walk down South Compo, Greens Farms, cross the Sherwood Connector, and dodge the cars up and down GF to get to Morningside Drive. He’s six years old, he needs to be taught to toughen up and get a few miles in in the morning and afternoons anyway.

  2. Rozanne Gates

    Maybe you could start a volunteer driver’s list, Dan. I will volunteer if there is a strike and it goes on for a while. We don’t want any child getting hurt or left behind.

  3. what about SBAC testing?

  4. Bart Shuldman

    Why are parents in a Westport just finding out about this issue? Was this strike a total surprise and the BofE just found out or was the decision to hold off telling the parents?

    I am concerned for those couples who both work that were given just 24 hours notice. Any explanation??

  5. Peter Seidman

    I would be interested to know the issues involved, in particular of the drivers who undertake a difficult job that, as is obvious from the elaborate alternative plans described by the school board, plays a critical role in students getting safely to their schools. Seems like for a town as relatively wealthy as Westport, ensuring a decent standard of living and working conditions for those entrusted with the youths would be a must.

    • While I agree, what we have to keep in mind is that our town has a contract with the bus company and in turn, the bus company handles the contracts with the drivers. The drivers’ strike would be between the drivers’ and Dattco, not the drivers and Westport. This also leaves us helpless in the situation (to some extent).

  6. Bonnie Dubson

    Open Letter to Superintendent Palmer:

    I think the possibility of a bus strike can actually be a “glass half full” moment for Westport.

    Perhaps we can react to this adversity (bus strike) by getting to know our neighbors better, learning to work together cooperatively to get our children to school, and becoming a more unified community.

    In the event of a strike, my neighbors and I will car pool, and possibly ride bikes with the children to school. We could even do the unthinkable — have the children walk to school together.

    I think in general children these days are coddled. They do not know the meaning of grit. Back in the day, students used to walk to and from school — and it was uphill both ways!

    Schools should NOT be shuttered because of a bus strike, however long it may drag on. That would be short-changing our students’ learning — as well as wasting a great opportunity to impart a work together, get-it-done attitude, self-reliance, and grit.

    Thanks for everything you do to make our school system top notch —

    Best regards,
    Bonnie Dubson

    • Bonnie, as a mother who must drive her child to King’s Highway, I can tell you this will not be an issue of earning grit vs coddling our children for many of us at KHS. With King’s Highway and Saugatuck being back to back (to say nothing of Landmark and Pumpkin Preschools also being right there), the traffic is already problematic in that area in the morning as that is also the route the commuters will take to the Merritt. This is going to create a traffic circus throughout our town because many of us do not live close enough to schools to which we may walk or ride bikes (but how lovely that you are in that situation! I’m envious!). And while I agree with you that this is a great opportunity for neighbors to come together, many – like me – have multiple children involved and can only fit so many in our vehicles. I can only imagine what a nightmare this will be for families who must get three children to three different schools all over town. I do see your point for those who have a more ideal situation to combat this with a little pre-planning, but not all of the parents in town will be so lucky.

  7. Bobbi Essagof

    I think the thing for parents to remember is not to stress the kids over this. Just as you have no control over this they do not either. So what if they are late. Life will go on and so will the school day. Keep breathing and as Ms. Palmer said use this as a teachable moment. Not only problem solving but the idea of peaceful protest and strikes as part of our history.
    Good luck!

  8. Rob Simmelkjaer

    Dan that last photo you posted of the bus spewing noxious fumes raises another issue with Dattco. That bus shouldn’t be on the road. I’ve seen it (or one just like it) drive through my neighborhood and it left a smoky haze over the entire area. I tried to call them and got the run around

  9. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    What does our contract say between Westport & Dattco
    This is not Iran when they held Americans hostage
    This is the United States of America, Westport, CT and no one has the right
    to hold our kids hostage from transportation to school and get an education
    I suggest Dattco be told NOW! when the contract is up we hire another bus company with a more stringent contract. If they don’t resolve today!

  10. David J. Loffredo

    I dare any of you who posted that the kids should walk, to get outside and walk to your nearest Elementary school. Two of them (KHS and GFS) are on US1 and one (SES) is on CT 33. Good luck, try not to get splashed by the cars racing by.

    And enough with the “we’re a wealthy town” argument – that’s how our beloved State wound up $4B in the Red.

    If they strike they strike and we deal with it, don’t really have a choice. Bart’s right though – how come parents are finding out about this 48 hours before it happens? Tough for working parents who rely on getting their kid off in the morning so they can get to work.

    • Bart Shuldman

      David-we should all have real concern with what is going on with our new Westport Superintendent. and probably our BofE.

      If a strike was to happen, and let’s all hope it does not, Westport residents with students will have had one day to prepare. I don’t care how the negotiations were going and what issues were being discussed, every parent had the right to know about this issue days in advance. The arrogance that everyone would be able to adjust in one day is wrong.

      Any comment about the wealth in westport does not take into the consideration of both parents working and the complication this could create. Again, I will hope the strike does not happen. But the decision to wait until 24 hours before the potential strike will have many scrambling to decide what to do.

      The traffic and commotion in Westport will be extreme. Many live miles from a Staples and the impact on both Bedford and Staples will be significant regarding traffic. Parents should have had the time to look at solutions with neighbors and from ends that would help to mitigate the extreme traffic we will all face.

      One day? Just wrong.

      May our BofE and Superintendent learn a lesson and I am sure everyone will continue to hope this strike does not occur.

  11. Michael Krein

    STRIKE is not going to happen according to the paper and radio!!!! Cheers to all