Months of tortuous and torturous commutes could end as soon as next week for the tens of thousands of students whose school bus drivers have been on strike for the last month.

Five mayoral candidates who have supported the drivers’ demands for seniority protections in city contracts have asked the Amalgamated Transit Union to end the strike, and the union’s national and local leaders have said they are considering the request. The leaders are scheduled to address members during a conference call tonight.

Reports the New York Times:

A decision to return to work would represent a major victory for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who had begun to strip the employee protections in contracts that the city signed with the private companies who run the buses. …

One driver on strike, Everest Jones, 51, a single parent of two teenagers who lives in Brooklyn, said that the strike was hard but that he felt he had made as much of a stand as he could for the protections he still hoped for.

“We all want to go back to work,” he said.

For the striking drivers, returning to work would mean getting paid for the first time in weeks. For families, “it means a return to their normal routines,” said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children.

“It means the students still out will be back in school,” Moroff said. “It means the parents doing exceptional gymnastics to get their kids to school can return to their normal lives.”

Thousands of students, many with special needs, have been in and out of classes or missed school entirely because the burden of transportation has been on their parents during the strike. The city will have to do something to help them, Moroff said.

“I’m sure there will be bumps since so many of these kids have missed so much school this past month,” she said. “And, of course, the Department of Education will need to figure out next how they’re going to make up for all the school time and service time these kids lost.”

City schools are closed on Monday and Tuesday but will resume in the middle of what had been a planned vacation to make up days missed because of another unusual disruption: Hurricane Sandy, which kept city students out of school for a week last fall.