Columbia Schools bus contract to continue through summer

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COLUMBIA - It was the last day of classes for Columbia Public Schools Wednesday, but bus transportation provider First Student will continue to serve the district until the end of summer school.

Starting in August 2015, Student Transportation of America will take over as the district's bus provider.

CPS Chief Financial and Operations Officer Linda Quinley said, "I think everyone knows that First Student will be finishing out the school year and summer school for us, and they've really worked hard to honor their contract to the end of the year."

Quinley said between 8,000 and 9,000 students attend summer school, which starts Monday, June 8 and ends Thursday, July 2. A large number of those students use bus transportation.

"The contract ends for First Student at the end of July, but really just immediately right after summer school," Quinley said.

The contract for Student Transportation of America was set to begin August 1, but Quinley said the school board added an addendum so STA could start in July for charter trips.

Along with the new bus provider, Quinley said STA will bring 220 new buses equipped with GPS, security audio and video and some with Wi-Fi.

"It's an exciting change," Quinley said. "We really are excited about the change and looking forward to a new set of eyes looking at how we can maybe bus differently, maybe bus better."

STA also created a new mobile application so parents can track the buses from a mobile device.

"If you're a parent and you're wondering, ‘why is the bus 10 minutes late? Is it going to be 20 or is it going to be 12?' I think that feature will be really nice," Quinley said.

The app will be available to early childhood special education families starting in August, and then Quinley said they'll expand the app to all families.