The union representing bus drivers for the Spring Grove Area School District has voted to authorize a strike, but the students are guaranteed a ride until the end of March through a contract extension agreement.

Durham School Services, the company through which the district contracts for drivers, said Thursday the temporary measure assures there will be no disruption in service through March 31. The company said it has also scheduled additional dates for the negotiations.

School district spokeswoman Lisa Smith said the company provides transportation for 3,500 Spring Grove students per day, and the district is "confident that both parties are working hard to reach an agreement that will be mutually beneficial."

"We hope that the conclusion of the negotiations will come soon so that there is no disruption in our students' educational programs," she said.

But the school district has a contingency plan in the event that the company and the drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 776, can't agree on a deal, she said,

"There are plans in place, and we're looking at them to see which fit the best for this situation," she said.

The district could use a combination of resources available to ensure students arrive safely at school, she said. The district owns some vans that transport about 14 students at a time to sporting events, and those could be used. It could also contract with other area bus companies that don't typically make school runs, "but would be available for a day or two if needed."

School officials could also encourage more parents to drive their children to school, as many do now even as bus service is available, Smith said.

"We're very hopeful this will get worked out," she said. "These are all good people, both the drivers and the company."

This has been a year of multiple weather-related closures, and the district "doesn't even want to speculate" about whether school would be in session if all options fail, she said.

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