WESTPORT, Conn. — Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer is warning parents that bus service could come to halt this week due to a lack of contract with drivers — and telling them to be prepared to get their kids to school safely.
"I wish to advise you of the potential for a strike by the school bus drivers employed by our bus service company, Dattco," Palmer said in a statement. "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 special education students using specialized transportation, she said.
Palmer told parents that schools will still be open "should the strike take place."
"I ask you to arrange transportation to get your children to and from school, if at all possible," Palmer said. "I urge you to consider forming car pools during this critical period."
She asked parents to ensure safety by waiting in line to pull up to the official drop-off areas.
"I also ask that any students who do not normally walk to or from school refrain from doing so during this time period," she said.
The school district will have a handful of drivers available for parents with no means to provide transportation, Palmer said. Contact your school administration as soon as possible Wednesday if your child needs a ride.
Additional Westport police officers will be directing traffic at high volume locations, she said.
She urged parents to get children to school about 30 minutes before the normal start time.
With an expected increase in car traffic, drivers may use both the parent drop-off area and the bus loop at each school, Palmer said.
"Students will not be penalized in any way for arriving late" if a strike occurs, she said. "If a strike does take place, all before- and after school-activities at the elementary schools will be canceled."
Details on drop-offs, pickups and other pertinent information will be emailed to parents by 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 6:00 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," she said.
If a strike occurs and lasts more than one day, Westport school officials will "assess the viability of continuing to have our schools open" based on Thursday's events. They will also look at attendance if a strike occurs.
Palmer urged parents to put safety of students first and foremost.
"If you cannot find a safe way to arrange for your student to attend school, please contact the school administration," she said. "In those circumstances, your student’s absence from school will not count against him/her."