Photo by: WCPO

By: Sean DeLancey , Taylor Weiter

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Students in the Lakota Local School District could be back on buses as soon as Friday after bus drivers reached a tentative agreement with Petermann Bus, the company the board hired to administer busing in the district.

In a joint statement, the two sides said they have agreed to a 3-year labor agreement with the help of a federal mediator. Teamsters Local 100 members are expected to vote on the agreement Thursday, Sept. 7. If the contract is ratified, bus services can continue on Friday.

Negotiators met at 9 a.m. Wednesday after a halt in negotiations during the holiday weekend.

The strike was called on Aug. 31, leading parents at Lakota schools like Lindsey Hilty to scramble for transportation options.

“I immediately went into problem-solver mode,” Hilty said.

Hilty said she has largely been able to avoid the worst consequences of the district’s bus drivers refusing to get behind the wheel, but other parents haven’t been as lucky.

“I’m sure people will continue to problem solve, but it’s a strain on a lot of parents,” she said. “They are having to leave work to do this.”

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, the first since the strike was called, district leaders thanked staff and administrators for adjusting to changes as best they could.

During public comment, bus drivers spoke about why they voted to strike. Elizabeth Martin and Katie Hacker spoke to the board and emphasized that surveillance and camera usage within the buses has not been the primary issue leading to their strike, as many have assumed.

“We had cameras in our buses when I first started in ’97,” Martin said.

Martin said the main sticking point had been contract language that they worried would allow Petermann supervisors to constantly dip into monitoring their feeds to ding drivers for minor or unavoidable infractions.

“Scrutinized for every blink we take or sneeze we make or, oh, that light changed and I’ve got a bus full of kids, what do I do?” she said.

The terms of the new agreement will not be released until union members vote on it Thursday.

Reposted with permission from WCPO 9 Cincinnati.

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