Vandalia-Butler pursues contract with new bus company

The negotiations come as the district is ending its contract with First Student, Inc., the Cincinnati-based company providing the district’s busing.

“We used the termination of convenience clause in the contract with First Student back in March,” said Superintendent Brad Neavin. He added that the district advertised requests for proposals on May 1.

The district chose Community Bus in Youngstown as a potential company to hire out of the four proposals submitted, according to Neavin.

“Something we were very clear about in the RFP process is whatever company that would come in here would have to show us that they can engage our stakeholders,” Neavin said. “This is a company that has a history of engaging parents, strong support of their drivers and they’re very involved in interacting with administration at all levels to get feed back on how they can provide better service.”

Better service is key when looking at First Student’s performance in the district.

The district had numerous complaints about missed stops, inadequate staffing and problems with drivers who didn’t know the routes because they were unfamiliar with the area.

Despite its rocky start, First Student was one of the four companies that submitted proposals to the district earlier this month.

“They have every right to submit a proposal like any other day,” said Mark Barhorst, the district’s director of Human Resources and Operations.

The other companies who submitted proposals included Petermann in Cincinnati and Auxilio in Michigan.

The district’s contract with First Student ends July 31.

The school board voted Tuesday to allow Neavin to begin negotiations with a new company.

This newspaper reported in November that the district paid First Student nearly $160,000 per month for busing. This excluded summer days.

The district is hoping to have a new busing contract signed in June and the new company starting on July 1, according to Neavin.

“We will have some overlap where we will have one company moving in as the other company moves out,” Neavin said. “We did that intentionally so that we will have a smooth transition process.”

Right now, Community Bus, which is a family-owned company, is a strong candidate, Neavin said.

“Obviously we have to go through the contract process, but at this point and time, we’re impressed with their level of commitment to this contract and wanting to provide service to our kids,” Neavin said.

As far as the bus drivers are concerned, Barhorst said Community Bus officials told district officials that if hired by the district, they would reach out to the district’s former bus drivers about possible employment.

“Part of the request for proposals included that our local drivers got the first opportunity at positions,” Barhorst said.

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