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Boston School Bus Driver Strike Averted, Families Brace For Bumpy First Day

BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston school bus drivers' union wanted the start of school in the city to be postponed.

Classes are scheduled to begin Thursday in Boston, but the union said bus routing for the new school year is "by far the worst fiasco we've witnessed in our careers."

Boston Public Schools issued a statement Wednesday saying classes will start on time as planned.

"We expect our bus drivers to report to work for the first day tomorrow, and all parties will continue in good faith negotiation until we reach an agreement on a long-term contract. BPS will continue to do everything we can to provide safe, reliable, on-time transportation to all students who ride our buses," the statement read.

"BPS anticipates some disruption of service for the first day of school. Parents and caregivers of students who are impacted by any potential disruption of service will receive a call from the transportation department on the morning of school. We communicated with families last week letting them know this might be an issue."

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius told WBZ-TV they reached an agreement with the bus drivers to prevent a strike from happening before November 15th. She said there will be extra bus company staff on hand to help for the first week of school and drivers will get extra pay if they show up 15 minutes early.

"We have about 100 standby drivers," said Cassellius. "Fortunately, we've been able to hire about 35 drivers after the bid, and so that will really help us with some of our shortages, but we do have routes that we still need to cover."

Boston is one of many districts struggling with school bus driver shortages.

Just last week, Cassellius said there were more than 150 open positions across the district, including what she called a "significant" shortage of bus drivers and monitors. The district is asking for anyone interested in an open position to apply right away. (Click here for details)

"We've done the bus before, and there's always a few weeks of kind of growing pains," said Boston mom Jenny Lashway,

Mayor Kim Janey avoided questions about it during a public appearance Wednesday, leaving her spokesperson to explain. "She reached an agreement overnight with the bus drivers' union for the continuation of work tomorrow, as good faith negotiations continue on a final contract," said Stephanie Garrett-Stearns. "So we look forward to our school bus drivers reporting to work tomorrow."

The union claims the company that employs the school bus drivers, Transdev, "had 100+ additional routes than last year, with no explanation for the increase."

"Transdev and BPS have not told the Union what measures they are taking to correct these routing problems nor a time schedule for a fix," the union said in a statement.

"BPS must immediately correct all routing problems and correct their tainted bid. Both to devise a reasonable and responsible routing policy toward COVID-19, which is now spiking, and to fix the transportation routing mismanagement problems at BPS, we believe the opening of in-person BPS should be postponed."

The Union did not respond to WBZ's inquiries regarding the latest agreement, which is temporarily in place until November 15th. Negotiations for a long-term plan are ongoing.

"First day and last day of school are usually tough," said school bus driver Joseph Guillett.

Boston Public Schools says it buses about 25,000 students a day with about 700 drivers.

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