First Student Agrees To Pay Penalties To Unit Five | WGLT

First Student Agrees To Pay Penalties To Unit Five

Nov 1, 2016

Credit Emma Shores / WGLT

The Unit Five School District and its bus service contractor have agreed on more than thirty-thousand-dollars in penalties for late bus problems since the start of the school year.

Superintendent Mark Daniel says First Student has also agreed on a twenty percent reserve of bus drivers and is close to meeting that target. Daniel said as of Tuesday First Student had 137 drivers and about 140 are required. The deadline to meet the requirement is November 22nd.

Daniel says on time performance is improving.

"Now we can finally get to the business of hey this bus is three or four minutes before the bell. That needs to be there at least five minutes before the bell. Yes, I feel great relief. And I hope our parents and students do as well," said Daniel.

There had been a lengthy standoff over the definition of late. First Student had maintained the start of class was the deadline. The company has now accepted the district's five-minute margin requirement.

He said First Student has also become far more responsive. Though communication remains an issue, the nature of the problem is different.

"There has been some things where, for instance, we've been told that a bus may be twenty minutes late where in fact, First Student may have a bus there in five minutes. We're trying to narrow that down, because it confuses our parents," said Daniel.

Since the school year began some students have been substantially late, in some cases one to two hours.

"Disgruntled parents are becoming fewer and fewer," said Daniel.

First Student will also reimburse Unit Five several thousand dollars for a district after hours call center to hear complaints from parents that was begun in September. Daniel said Unit Five will keep that center open for a while, though the need for the practice will be reviewed soon.

First Student has also agreed to reimburse Unit Five for most of the thirty-thousand dollar a year cost of a person who will make sure Unit Five has immediate access to video recorded on the bus. Daniel said that had been in the contract, but the district will take over the function to make sure video access is speedy.