Local government authorities in Providence, Rhode Island, are under pressure to get special needs students transported to and from school, as drivers with contractor First Student continue to strike, reports the Providence Journal.
The strike deprived the city of 150 buses and drivers, leaving 9,000 Providence Public School District students without school bus transportation. City Mayor Jorge Elorza reportedly offered to contribute city funds toward First Student’s contract and tried to find alternative school bus service providers, to no avail.
According to district Superintendent Christopher Maher, about 1,000 students have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that require school bus transportation. The Rhode Island Disability Law Center, Rhode Island Legal Services, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island contacted Mayor Elorza on Monday regarding the obligation the district has to provide these special-needs students with school bus service.
The district initially gave students who normally ride the bus three days of excused absences, but later extended it through the end of this week. Officials also said student IEP plans and compensatory services would be discussed after the strike ends.
The drivers, members of Teamsters Local 251, went on strike last Thursday, Sep. 27, over retirement benefits. They are holding out for a pension plan while First Student wants them to participate in a 401k plan.