BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – Word of a possible breakthrough in the bus strike encourages students. Many are worried about getting to class as school starts in a week or two.
If the buses start rolling again, it would be in the knick of time for many students.
On Tuesday, Golden Empire Transit made an offer to Teamster Union negotiators. It’s basically a one-year extension of the current contract with a 3 percent raise.
About 250 bus workers walked out on July 15, and many riders say that’s left them stranded.
“I get to physical therapy twice a week, and then once school starts, I’m going to be doing that on top of school,” Megan Oliver said. She needs one more class at Bakersfield College, and that starts on Aug. 25.
When the strike started, classes at B.C. were just wrapping up, and the impacts were immediate.
“Even in the summer semester, we saw students dropping out, because they couldn’t get here for their classes,” B.C. spokeswoman Amber Chiang said. “Now, we’re going to start a new semester in 2 weeks, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what’s going to happen.”
Kyra and Tyra Saunders were sitting on campus in some shade at about noon, waiting for a ride.
“We can’t really get around, Kyra said. “Can’t get to and from school,” They got a ride to the campus Tuesday morning, but weren’t positive how they’d get home. Kyra hopes they’ll be able to line up rides when the semester starts, but she’s worried about other students.
“I’ve been seeing taxis and stuff come up here,” she said, and she worries how students can afford taxi fare.
Megan Oliver also worries about the expense. She also needs classes at Cal-State Bakersfield, and that next session starts in mid-September. That’ll make her twice as dependent on friends for rides, and that adds cost.
“That’s going to be even harder, and more gas money to offer to people,” she said. Oliver says that will cost more than a monthly GET bus pass.
But even before the college classes start, school begins for many local high school students. And, some of them also depend on GET.
Vanessa Bernal’s teenage kids take GET to Foothill High. “They catch the bus close to the house, and the GET bus leaves them right across from the school,” she said. Bernal says the kids live outside the school bus area, but it’s still a long walk. That’s why they take GET — when it’s running.
And, Bernal also uses GET herself to get to classes she needs at the Bakersfield Adult School. That session begins on Aug. 18, the same day as the high schools start up.
“I don’t know how I’m going to get there,” Bernal worries. “But, this is something I need to do. If I have to walk, I’m going to have to walk.” She figures that could take one or two hours.
The bus workers walked out in a contract dispute over the part-time status of many employees and seeking a raise.
Bernal says she sympathizes with the workers’ position.
“We want them to get what they deserve in order to provide efficiently for their families,” Bernal says. “But of course, if they would have given us a choice, we’ll raise the fares.” She would be willing to pay more, and thinks other bus riders feel the same.
Up at Bakersfield College, Kyra Saunders and her sister just want the strike to end before classes start.
“I just hope they get this strike over,” she says. “And, we can get back on the bus again.”
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