Board of Education ends bus operations with private company

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The Beaufort County Board of Education voted today to end the school district’s relationship with a private-sector transportation provider and to have the district take over supervision of bus operations beginning July 1.

Superintendent Jeff Moss told Board members that he was confident that the district would provide improved bus service for students and families – and at a lower cost. Durham School Services’ bid to extend its contract for 2016-17 was $6.5 million, a $900,000 increase over 2015-16’s contract.

Moss said that planning to move toward district-supervised school bus operations would begin immediately.

Nearly 12,000 students ride buses to or from Beaufort County public schools each day, with buses traveling more than 11,000 miles daily.

The South Carolina Department of Education supplies, maintains and fuels a statewide bus fleet, with vehicles allotted to individual districts based on student enrollment. Local school districts hire and supervise bus drivers and also design routes.

Beaufort County has operated a partially privatized school bus system for 20 years through contracts with three companies: Laidlaw (1996-2004), First Student (2004-2010) and Durham School Services (2010-present).

Moss said that district Chief Auxiliary Services Officer Gregory McCord would meet with Durham employees and brief them on the school district’s plans. Current Durham drivers would be able to apply for driving positions with the district, he said.

The superintendent added that the school district would lease an undetermined number of buses to supplement those provided by the state, which are not numerous enough to provide the levels of service that parents want. Of the 190 buses currently operating in the district, 149 are supplied by the state and 41 are supplied by Durham.