Crestwood School Board Opts To End Bus Contract
Crestwood schools will reopen today with a two-hour delay after being closed for two days while bus drivers updated their criminal background checks.
State auditors discovered some of the background checks weren’t current, leading the Crestwood School District to close Wednesday and Thursday and cancel a contract with its school bus provider, effective in February 2019.
Rinehimer School Bus of Slocum Twp. has a contract with Crestwood, but the school board decided to end it early.
“Their duty was to make sure every driver was qualified through the state mandate. That didn’t happen. The contract said if they can’t provide transportation, we can terminate,” board President Bill Jones said.
During the next three months, the board can ask companies for proposals to provide bus service.
Jones said several firms are interested and will have drivers, but also might extend jobs to current drivers. There is a possibility, he said, that the board might let Rinehimer reapply.
Scott Henry, owner of Rinehimer School Bus, didn’t return a telephone message.
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Wednesday said school administrators and the board have the ultimate responsibility to ensure that drivers are certified, although bus companies should make certain as well. DePasquale used Crestwood as an example when advising
other school districts to ensure that certifications and background checks were on file and up to date.
Other districts are paying attention.
Hazleton Area Superintendent Brian Uplinger said paperwork from its busing contract is on file for each driver.
Peter Bard, business manager at Weatherly Area School District, said all files for drivers are up to date and the district isn’t letting anyone drive unless their documentation is in his office.
Tamaqua Area Superintendent Raymond Kinder said driver information is audited on a regular basis so the district can meet requirements.
On Thursday, DePasquale said he worked with Crestwood officials and state agencies to get buses running again. He thanked state police, the state Department of Education and Marcus Brown, the director of homeland security, for their help. He said Crestwood’s teachers and support workers shared his concerns.
“I applaud them for offering to, as teachers so often do, go above and beyond their normal duties to help resolve this problem,” DePasquale said in a statement.
Teachers and other employees who have clearances rode on buses taking home students on Tuesday afternoon and they offered to ride on buses again today.
For each school bus driver, state law requires districts to have to an operator’s license, medical examination report, criminal background check, federal criminal history and state child abuse clearance.
After reviewing records with a state auditor, Crestwood Superintendent Joseph Gorham said all drivers have licenses and medical exams but some of the criminal background records were out of date as of Wednesday.
Rather than operate without 100 percent certainty that the district was in compliance, Crestwood put teachers and other employees who had clearances on buses for rides home Tuesday afternoon and canceled school the next two days.
Applying for a police clearance takes five or 10 minutes on a computer, Gorham said, but drivers also had to be fingerprinted, which requires them to report in person and adds time to the process.
About half the drivers had been fingerprinted as of Wednesday, he said.
About 40 drivers take Crestwood students to and from school, while another 10 drive students to games and other extracurricular events.
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