Columbia says yes to a new bus system and delayed start times

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Public Schools Board unanimously agreed to move forward with a new bus service provider and delayed start times for winter weather conditions.

The board selected the New Jersey based agency, Student Transportation of America, to replace the old provider, First Student.

After receiving several complaints from parents and several buses failing to pass inspection in a state audit, the board decided to consider a new bus agency. The board then requested research to determine which agency or provider would be best.

Board member Linda Quinley's presentation outlined the bids and strategies of the three contenders, while keeping in mind the needs and goals the board hopes to accomplish.

"Pick up and drop off times, length of bus rides, they are all factors and discipline issues are also a part of this conversation," said Sessions. "Dissatisfaction and complaints from family members were definitely the catalyst for the discussion to reevaluate our bus system."

Board member Jonathan Sessions said the quality and costs are among the board's main concerns. Three companies were bidding for the new five-year contract, including the current bus provider, First Student. Student Transportation of America was the lowest bidder.

Student Transportation of America said it will provide new buses in 2015 equipped with GPS and Wi-Fi. The new system will cost more than 10 million dollars.

The Columbia Public Schools Board says it will honor the rest of its contract with First Student, which ends at the conclusion of the current school year.

The school board also voted on a delayed start time for all schools and buses during extreme weather when school is not cancelled. Quinley said the next step is communicating with parents about the conditions of the plan moving forward.

She said she wanted to emphasize the plan is to give students and parents enough time to safely travel to school. Although schools and bus schedule will be delayed by two hours, school will still end at the same time.