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Learning institutions announce plans, express concerns if SEPTA goes on strike next week

For the students and faculty who rely on SEPTA in their everyday commutes, the threat of a union strike is very worrisome. 

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With the threat of a potential SEPTA union strike looming, there has been talk of some schools, colleges and universities switching to virtual classes to avoid a disruption of learning services for students. 

The School District of Philadelphia sent out a letter this week to parents and families that reads: “Any disruption in SEPTA services would impact thousands of our students and staff members who rely on SEPTA to get to and from our schools and offices every day.”

In a statement released the following day, the School District wrote: “While the School District of Philadelphia is not directly involved in these contract negotiations, it is clear that a SEPTA strike would have a devastating impact on the operation of our School District and our ability to sustain in-person learning five days a week for all students.”

“We are advocating relentlessly with City leaders for a non-strike resolution to SEPTA negotiations so that we can continue to keep all schools open and best support the social, emotional and academic needs of our students without additional disruption,” it continues.  

In contrast, before the decision on a potential strike has been made, several local colleges and universities have already decided its campuses will remain open. 

Temple University announced in a statement to students and employees that it will continue its in-person operations even if SEPTA union workers go on strike, starting likely on Monday, Nov. 1.

In the event of a potential strike, SEPTA’s buses, trolleys and subways would be impacted, but regional rail services would continue to run.

Temple announced that if the strike occurs, the university will run a shuttle along Broad Street between Locust and Cheltenham Avenue on weekdays, besides the usual shuttles between Main Campus, Ambler and the Health Sciences Campus.

The university will also offer $10 parking per day if the strike occurs and recommends students and faculty purchase daily parking permits. 

“While we all hope for a timely resolution, it is critical to plan ahead and make arrangements in the event of a strike,” wrote Ken Kaiser, senior vice president for finance and operations and chief administrative officer at Temple, in a statement to students and employees.

Drexel University announced that its campuses will remain open in the event of a strike; however, the university will collaborate with the University of Pennsylvania and other major University City institutions to provide shuttle service linking riders from the 69th Street Transit Center and the PATCO terminus at 15th and Locust streets to its campuses. 

In addition, Drexel will be operating a Campus Bus Service from the University City Campus west of 63rd and Market streets and returning east on Chestnut to 33rd and Chestnut streets.

In all instances, students and riders must provide a valid ID (in Temple’s case, an OWLcard) and wear a mask at all times.

“Should a strike occur, we will communicate final plans and provide as much support as possible to the University community,” wrote Helen Bowman, executive vice president, treasurer and COO and Paul E. Jensen, executive vice president, Nina Henderson Provost and university professor, in a statement.

Current contract negotiations center around higher wages, maternity leave options, and compensation for families of employees who died from COVID-19, and better safety.

SEPTA has released a guide that details all critical service information in the event of a strike, as well as regional rail fare information, which is the most prominent form of public transportation that would remain operating, albeit with higher frequency. 

If SEPTA workers do go on strike next week, it would be the 11th time it has happened in its history, with the most recent one happening in 2016. 

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