By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — School administrators from all over the Lakes Region breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday night when they learned that First Student Inc. had signed a contract with its workers at the Belmont facility.
The employees, who are represented by Teamsters Local 633 of Manchester, had been working without a contract and had threatened to strike the company in an effort to settle some wage and pension issues.
"This was definitely a piece of very welcome news," said Gilford Superintendent Kirk Beitler, who said he sent a group message to all of the parents when he was informed about the contract last night.
"It means no disruption of our services," he continued, saying he had gotten quite a few responses from relieved parents who had been trying to plan how they would get their children to and from school had been a strike.
First Student in Belmont provides school bus service for students in Belmont, Laconia, Gilford and Gilmanton. While the other school districts in the area are served by First Student facilities other than the one in Belmont, they too were on alert for fear of a general strike if the Belmont workers couldn't reach a resolution.
"We value our drivers and recognize the excellent work they do in transporting children safely to and from school. First Student is happy to have this matter resolved (and) we return our full focus (of) providing continuous service for the school districts we serve," said First Student spokesman Chris Kemper.
Throughout the Lakes Regions, school superintendents were making contingency plans to get their students to school had their been a strike. While all but Shaker Regional said they would be able to keep their schools open, all after school activities including sports, would have a ground to a halt.
"A work stoppage would not have been good for our students, staff, and families.," said Dr. Brendan Minnihan the superintendent of Laconia Schools. "It is also nice that the agreement, as far as I am aware, covers the next five years. It is a situation where although we had a contingency plan, we are more than happy to not have to implement it."
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