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IPS reaches agreement with union that represents bus drivers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Public Schools has reached an agreement with the union that represents its bus drivers, after tensions over the district’s upcoming change of transportation providers led to dozens of drivers calling out sick at the end of February.

In a statement released Sunday night, IPS and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on Friday agreed to terms that guarantees reliable transportation for IPS schools for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year and includes transition assistance and bonuses for IPS transportation employees whose contracts with the district will end in June.

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) are pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that not only benefits district bus drivers and attendants but also avoids any further disruption to IPS transportation for the remainder of the school year.

On Friday, March 6, IPS and AFSCME union leadership signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that includes bonuses and transition assistance for IPS transportation employees whose contract with the district ends in June. First Student will operate IPS transportation beginning with the 2020-21 school year.

The MOU will be presented to the IPS Board of School Commissioners to sign and ratify on Monday, March 9.

“AFSCME realizes the difficulty of this transition for all affected,” said Ron Richmond, AFSCME Director of Communications. “We appreciate the drivers and attendants who have dedicated many years of service to this community., and thank them for their patience as we finalized this agreement.”

“We are excited to resume reliable transportation service for the district,” said IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson. “While we acknowledge that the majority of our drivers reported to work, it was a smaller percentage who did not that caused a major disruption to bus service for thousands of our students. However, this agreement should provide relief to our families who were left to wonder how to transport their students to and from school during our disruption in service. We appreciate their patience while IPS and AFSCME union leadership worked through the logistics.”

Indianapolis Public Schools and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

The district in late January announced it would be moving from a shared system between IPS and Durham School Services to First Student Transportation, starting July 1.

IPS initially said it was working to transition all of its “successful employees” to the new company. The change of providers upset bus drivers and forced them to reapply for their jobs. The district’s transportation department employs 135 people, including bus drivers, bus attendants and some operations staff.

In early February, News 8’s newsgathering partner Inside Indiana Business reported that Durham had provided notice to the state that it would be laying off more than 500 employees — including 218 drivers and 243 bus assistants — due to the loss of its contract with IPS.

A total of 71 of the district’s 300 bus drivers called out of work on Feb. 28, forcing the district to shut down its 305 bus routes. More than half of the district’s students didn’t attend class that day. Two days later, IPS recommended parents find alternative ways to get their kids to school on March 2 as call-outs continued. Ultimately, buses were able to run their normal routes on March 2.

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