MARLBOROUGH – You can see it along Bolton Street.
Traffic lined up on both sides of the street; kids walking to school; police officers and Marlborough Public Schools (MPS) staff ensuring the kids get to and from school safely.
Teamsters Local 170, which represents school bus drivers, has been unable to reach a contract settlement with NRT Bus. The drivers went on strike on Monday, May 8.
MPS Superintendent Mary Murphy stood at the corner of Bolton and Lincoln streets; she was among the staffers covering key routes near schools.
“It’s going well,” she said. “Traffic’s been a nightmare, but we’re implementing the [contingency] plan.”
Just up the street, Officer Nicholas St. Jean was part of the group guiding students across Bolton to Whitcomb Middle School.
“It’s as well as can be expected,” he said.
Under the plan, students who live within 1.5 miles of their schools are expected to walk; there will also be increased pickups and drop-offs by parents driving their kids, so traffic will be an issue.
The schools have arranged with NRT for transportation for special education students, as well as students attending ECC/Preschool.
Out-of-district transportation for special education students has not been affected.
For updates, visit https://www.mps-edu.org/
What drivers have to say
While some striking drivers picketed near the high school, others were at the bus parking area at Solomon Pond Mall.
“It’s not where we want to be,” said Shannon George, the secretary/treasurer and principal officer for Teamsters Local 170. “There’s not enough movement on the company’s part.”
A spokesman for NRT said Sunday, May 7, “Let me be clear, the negotiations have been centered around part-time jobs that currently are paying $34 per hour in Marlborough. This current compensation structure already places those drivers at the top of School Bus Driver compensation range across the state of Massachusetts.”
“They gave us a raise, but cut our hours,” said driver David Patrick, who’s been working for NRT for about a year.
Patrick and fellow driver Younes Kassir both live in Worcester and commute to Marlborough. Kassir said with the cut in hours, “it’s not worth it.”
“We’re asking for the minimum [of 25 hours],” said Kassir.
Shannon Burke and Cheryl Varela usually drive the routes for Goodnow Elementary and the high school. On Monday, May 8, they were part of the picket line.
“Sorry to the parents for inconveniencing them,” said Burke, who’s worked for NRT for nearly 14 years. “I miss my kids.”
Of the three school districts affected by the dispute, Framingham’s drivers reached a settlement over the weekend; Westborough Public Schools opened as usual on Monday, May 8, although a settlement has yet to be reached.
Bus strike contingency plans in place for Marlborough schools