New School Bus Service Starts in Waterloo
WATERLOO, Iowa - The buses will be different, but students may see familiar faces in the drivers' seats when they climb aboard.
Durham Student Services will start providing transportation for Waterloo Schools on Monday, replacing longtime provider First Student.
Waterloo's Board of Education in April approved a three-year contract with the company based in Warrenville, Ill., after a tumultuous relationship with First Student during the past year.
A former local manager of First Student, which is based in Cincinnati, was charged with record tampering, a misdemeanor, related to bus repairs last year. The manager later pleaded guilty.
The problems caused the district to seek bids for bus service, but First Student eventually was given a one-year extension. First Student was one of four companies to bid on the contract in April, but the board went with Durham instead.
The former First Student manager was replaced by Kevin Casey, who also was hired to be general manager of Durham's Waterloo operations.
And he's not the only person likely to be holding on to their job.
"We are evaluating all of the drivers and making sure they're up to department of transportation standards," Casey said.
He noted everyone who wants to continue driving a bus has to reapply and pass a background check.
"Most of the drivers are going to be retained, are going to be brought back on, because they pass the qualifications," he said.
Nonetheless, the company is looking for new applicants.
"We're going to be looking for a substantial amount of drivers," Casey said.
In addition, the company needs to hire other staff members, like bus monitors and mechanics.
First Student has been running 23 bus routes during June for summer school. With classes continuing for one program, Durham will be running 13 routes in July.
Bringing in another company means a change of buses used in the district.
"They're newer buses. They're state-of-the-art buses. There's newer cameras in them," Casey said. "Before the buses had one camera in the front, these buses will be equipped with three cameras."
Route possibilities for the fall will be analyzed and set as the school year draws near. Casey expects the number of routes to be similar to the 84 First Student ran last year.
"The (bus) fleet size will be approximately the same with the intent of gaining efficiencies," he said.
"We just want to run the most cost-effective, efficient routes we can," Casey added. "That's the goal, to save the taxpayer money."
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