Local

Stand Up for School Bus Safety coalition claims Harvard D50 busing service dangerous

Stand Up for School Bus Safety takes aim at Durham School Services

Shaw Media file photo
Shaw Media file photo

A local group has claimed the busing service that Harvard District 50 uses is unsafe.

Several people warned Harvard District 50 school board members against Durham School Services at the district’s last board meeting.

The individuals are part of a nationwide coalition Stand Up for School Bus Safety, which originated in Tennessee after a fatal crash occurred in Chattanooga.

The crash killed six students and the Durham driver has since been charged with vehicular homicide and a handful of other charges, according to local media reports.

The coalition argues the incident isn’t isolated.

Durham is operated by its parent company, United Kingdom-based National Express Group. The company’s school bus operations have experienced a 25 percent higher rate of crashes per million miles traveled compared with its main competitors First Student and Student Transportation Inc., according to a study based on data from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Federal safety violations were also higher than competitors, according to the study.

Susan Bartos, a Harvard resident who drives for First Student, said that she was concerned about the potential safety hazard.

“I don’t want what has happened in other communities to happen here in Harvard,” she said. “I take great pride in my work and the safety of our children and our drivers.

“That’s why I’m so concerned and need to speak up.”

Terressa Langston, who is a school bus monitor with First Student, said she used to drive for Durham and didn’t feel the training was adequate.

“When I got my license, that was the end of it,” she said.

“With First Student the training goes on and on. It’s every month. … We are transporting precious, irreplaceable cargo.”  

She added that the equipment provided by Durham wasn’t always adequate.

A call to the Harvard Durham location was directed to the company’s corporate office. Durham officials at that office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

District 50 Business Manager Mary Taylor said the district is in the process of bidding for its transportation services and would take into account the recently raised concerns.

“Student safety is definitely a primary concern for us,” she said. “We will take that into consideration when looking into bids as normal.”

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