UPDATE: Hamilton County school board ends bus contract with Durham School Services
UPDATE: A new bus company will be in charge of driving Hamilton County students to school.
Board members accepted a proposal from First Student Inc. on Thursday. The move will soon end the school district's partnership with Durham School Services.
Durham is the company that employed the driver involved in the Woodmore bus crash. Six children were killed and dozens were injured in 2016.
The decision to replace Durham has been ongoing among school board members since the crash. However, it sparked again in November. The school district began accepting bids in February, but First Student and Durham were the only two companies that submitted proposals for the job.
“There are just not that many companies that can serve a school system with transportation this large,” school board member Joe Smith said.
Smith said both companies were closely evaluated in nine categories, and safety and cost were the top two.
“We want to do everything that we can that every single day that we are transporting our students in the most safe, cost-effective way that we can do it,” he said.
First Student is based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The company comes with an $11 million price tag. It is about $1 million more than Durham.
“We're not going to accept a lower amount of service just because the price is lower,” Smith said.
Smith said both companies presented impressive plans, but First Student offered more to enhance safety, including 185 new Thomas Built Buses school buses.
“They've also committed to buying some new equipment, so we'll have a lot of brand new buses and updating their equipment, new technology in terms of routing and tracking those buses and cameras. [They are] just offering us a lot of things,” Smith explained.
According to the company's proposal, parents can track their students in real-time by using the FirstView Parent App. The app also allows parents to get direct alerts and messages from the school system on delays or problems. An online resource called FirstACTS will also be available. It is a “web-based system for reporting discipline issues on the bus.”
“Due to the tragedy, there was a lot of people looking at this very, very closely, so I have to believe that the parents will be pleased that we have made this decision,” Smith said.
The contract for the new company still has to be negotiated, but Channel 3 was told the transition will start almost immediately after that is done. However, students will not be on those new buses until next school year.
As for Durham bus drivers, it is not yet clear if they will be offered jobs with the new company.
Channel 3 reached out to Durham for comment, but have not heard back.
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