Fairborn students back in person after bus drivers call off work

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Union says the absences were not an authorized strike or coordinated effort by drivers.

Fairborn City Schools students were back in person on Tuesday after about a third of the district’s bus drivers were absent on Monday and a hearing has been called to determine if what those drivers did was an unauthorized strike.

Fairborn Superintendent Gene Lolli met Tuesday morning with the union that represents bus drivers. The union representative who met with Lolli told him she was not aware that so many people were planning to call off that day.

Lolli said the district still had some drivers call off on Tuesday, but had enough drivers to take kids to school. Twenty-two drivers called off on Monday, he said.

Stacey Benson-Taylor, regional director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 8, which is the parent organization of the union that represents bus drivers, said bus drivers may have called off for coronavirus-related reasons, but this was “absolutely not” an authorized work stoppage or a coordinated effort on the employees part. The Dayton Public Service Union is the union that represents the Fairborn bus drivers.

“There was obviously some concern about a positive COVID case and people were concerned about whether or not they had been exposed,” Benson-Taylor said. “There have been ongoing issues about the management of COVID cases and I believe there was a positive case and so this may have been a response to that. I can’t say for sure what everybody’s situation was.”

Lolli said that he had not gotten any indication that the absences were coronavirus-related.

“It is imperative we are able to transport kids to school every day,” Lolli said.

ExploreFairborn schools say late call-offs by bus drivers forced closure; union says no strike authorized

Fairborn called a hearing with the AFSCME and the Ohio State Employment Relations Board to determine whether the employees actions constituted as an unauthorized strike. That meeting will be held online at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Fairborn schools have had more issues with COVID-19 than most schools in the Miami Valley.

Both the primary school and the intermediate school closed their doors and moved back to remote learning for 10 days due to issues with positive tests and quarantining within the past month. The high school is doing remote learning this week, and the football team forfeited its playoff game last weekend due to COVID issues.

Notice went out on Saturday about a bus driver who had tested positive for the coronavirus. Benson-Taylor said that since people were not sure whether or not they had been in contact with that person or not, some were anxious.

The union filed a grievance last Friday about the district’s communication surrounding COVID, she said.

“We want to make sure the communication is clear, transparent and frequent about COVID, while still protecting the privacy of the person who tested positive,” Benson-Taylor said.

The union will continue to monitor the number of coronavirus cases in the district and monitor what personal protective equipment is being bought for drivers, she said.

“When it comes to ensuring the safety and meeting the transportation needs of the students, both ASFME and the bargaining unit members who drive the buses, take that very seriously and so would not do anything to jeopardize the health of the students or their coworkers, or the opportunity for students to be in school,” Benson-Taylor said.

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