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High Schools

Strike Options to Be Discussed

April 09, 2002|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The City Section has called an emergency meeting of athletic directors for its 60 high schools today to discuss options for resuming the sports season in the face of a prolonged school bus drivers' strike.

All sports events were canceled Monday and today. That's six consecutive days of no sports activities since 700 drivers employed by Laidlaw Education Services walked out last Tuesday.

Laidlaw is the biggest transportation contractor for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Negotiations between the drivers and Laidlaw broke down Friday.

It is the first such strike in the district in more than three decades.

Barbara Fiege, commissioner for the City Section, said the district is committed to continuing the sports season "in some fashion" but said a schedule could resume no earlier than Wednesday.

Among the proposals to be discussed will be the option of allowing schools to use private transportation for games, something the coaches have been championing for days. Those schools unable to supply their own transportation would have the option of playing on Saturdays with bus transportation provided by one of the other contractors.

"We've played 12 tournament games and gotten there with private transportation," Roosevelt High baseball Coach Scott Pearson said. "We can all do it."

Teams are allowed to use private transportation for tournaments but not league contests. District officials have been unwilling to waive the bus rule because of equity issues.

"What we do for one school, we have to do for every school," Fiege said.

"If we can't do that, we're being unfair."

On Saturday, several City baseball teams played in tournament games by using private transportation. And at least one school, Roosevelt, was able to obtain a bus for its nonleague game in Costa Mesa.

A critical West Valley League baseball game matching Chatsworth (16-0) and Woodland Hills El Camino Real (14-2) was canceled Monday, and district officials say they won't allow the schools to make up the game. District officials said any games canceled from Monday on won't be played.

"It's extremely frustrating and disappointing for the coaches, players, parents and everyone involved if these kids can't display their talents that they've worked on for a year," Chatsworth Athletic Director Fluke Fluker said. "Our kids are willing to go to whatever length to play."

The last major sports stoppage in the City Section occurred last fall, when contests were canceled for a week after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Before that, stoppages occurred in January of 1994 because of the Northridge earthquake. Games had to be rescheduled and sites changed because of damage to schools.

A three-week teachers' strike in 1989 forced an abbreviated spring sports schedule.

District officials are hopeful that those spring sports with fewer athletes involved--baseball, tennis, softball and volleyball--can resume with the help of private transportation. But buses almost certainly will be required for athletes competing in track and swimming. Golf is the only sport not affected by the bus drivers' strike, since it relies solely on private transportation.

Complicating the issue is that some teams and athletes are committed to playing tournaments on Saturdays and can't reschedule league contests for that day. The Arcadia track invitational is Saturday, which would prevent top athletes from City track teams competing in league meets that day.

Varsity sports would have top priority when it comes to resuming play. Whether the junior varsity and freshman-sophomore teams' seasons resume is uncertain.

"It is a mess and you can see the factors tying our hands," Fiege said.

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