Possibility of strike requires planning ahead

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2008

Monday's news that Kenai Peninsula school bus drivers have voted to authorize a strike is cause for concern. While a strike is not imminent, school administrators and families of students should put some thought into contingency plans to get kids to and from school safely, should bus drivers walk out.

Peninsula school bus drivers transport nearly 3,000 students a total of 7,725 miles to and from district schools on a daily basis -- that's a lot of students covering a huge chunk of peninsula roadways.

Drivers are employed by First Student Inc., not the district, so if a strike is called, district administrators don't have a lot of options to keep buses running.

However, administrators can take steps to make sure schools are prepared to handle the resulting consequences of a strike.

Parking lots may need to be adjusted to handle the heavier traffic flow as more parents bringing kids to school means more vehicles entering and exiting.

Thought should be given to extending pick-up and drop-off times, and staff or volunteers will need to be lined up to keep things running smoothly.

That just covers transportation to and from school and doesn't take into account field trips or travel for school clubs and sports teams, which also would be disrupted by a strike.

The heaviest burden of a potential strike falls on parents who depend on bus service for their kids and will be forced to make alternate arrangements to get their children to school.

Now would be a good time to circulate carpool lists around schools. Make plans with employers -- even parents for whom dropping kids at school is part of their routine will find themselves running behind with the traffic jams that can be expected in front of each building.

It's a lot for the school district and parents to think about -- getting the students back and forth to school and events safely.

Let's face it, safety is the main concern for everyone involved. Without a plan, something can go wrong, and one "something" is one too many.

Hopefully, First Student and its drivers will resolve their contract issues before a strike is deemed necessary, but if student transportation is disrupted, a little forethought will make it a easier for those affected to handle.

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