By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT —With a Nov. 15 deadline looming, Shaker Regional School District says a possible school bus driver strike may shut the schools down.
Superintendent Michael Tursi told the School Board Tuesday night that while he continues to work internally and with other school districts to try and come up with a creative solution, the bottom line is that if there are no buses, there can be no school.
"Our responsibility is to is to provide an education for all," said Tursi. "It's not fair to say we'll open the doors if you can get there."
Teamsters Local 633 represents the Belmont bus drivers who are fighting over retirement funding during their contract negotiations. The First Student facility in Belmont provides school bus service to Belmont, Laconia, Gilford, Gilmanton and Alton.
Union officials issued a strike notice on Oct. 24 but First Student called for a 21-day cooling-off period that expires on Nov. 15.
Tursi said he has notified parents and the school board about the possibility of the strike and told the School Board last night that he has been speaking with all the superintendents of the school districts that could be affected by the strike.
He said he sent a letter to First Student but has yet to receive a reply.
Board Chairman Sean Embree asked Tursi if there are other companies that could provide bus service, but Tursi said there is little to no competition for school buses in the Lakes Region.
He said that naturally any strike would affect any co-curriculars like sports and other after-school activities because if there's no school there can be no after-school activities.
When asked about extending the school year should there be a strike, Tursi said that Shaker Regional's school year accommodates 10 days of non-school time but that time is also used for snow days.
He agreed that if there is a prolonged strike that absorbs that time, then students will more likely than not be attending school in the summer.
"We are hoping for the best," Tursi said.
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