Bus driver contract issue could leave thousands of students stranded

Posted: Updated:
MASTIC BEACH -

Thousands of Long Island students could be without buses for the start of school just two weeks away.

William Floyd School District officials say there is some concern that there may not be enough bus drivers available to accommodate everyone by the start of the school year.

Schools Superintendent Kevin Coster says the problem began at the end of July when he says East End Bus Lines told him they needed $16.5 million more over the next three years or they wouldn't be able to fulfill their contract.

"You cannot open a contract and renegotiate in the middle when it comes to a board-approved, resident-approved, state Education Depatment-approved contract,” says Coster. “For us, that wasn't an option at all."

Two weeks ago, Coster says the Board of Education awarded a new transportation contract to Acme Bus Corp. / Baumann Bus Company, leaving dozens of drivers with East End out of jobs.

"These are drivers that have been in the community for quite some time. They know our students.  They know our families. We'd love to have them," said Coster.

The superintendent says Acme has been doing all it can, scrambling to hire enough drivers to get nearly 9,000 students to and from school.

But many of those drivers say Acme is not willing to give them the salary and benefits they had with East End.

District officials say they are currently short 70 drivers. They couldn't say how many routes that would affect.

Acme told News 12 that they have been in situations like this before and always come through. East End has not yet returned a call to comment.

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