front page - search - community 

Chavous launches school bus inquiry

(Published July 26, 1999)

D.C. City Councilman Kevin Chavous, D-7, has launched an inquiry into reports that school buses used to transport D.C. especial education students don’t comply with safety requirements.

Chavous, who chairs the council’s education committee, showed up unannounced July 22, to tour a bus operated by D.C. contractor, Laidlaw Transportation along with an independent school bus safety expert.

The councilmen said he wanted to find out if Laidlaw is violating its contract by using too few buses, not enough rotes, buses of the wrong shape and size, and not enough drivers and attendants.

He is particularly concerned,, he said, that some drivers with criminal records or improper certification cold still be driving.

"These drivers travel from contractor to contractor," he said. "Some were originally (D.C. Public Schools) Drivers, then they were picked up by (previous contractor) Horton & Barber, and now they are driving for Laidlaw."

The school system signed a sole source contract with Laidlaw last year after an investigation revealed that some Horton & Barber drivers did not have the required licenses and had not completed drug and alcohol testing.

School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman recently fired the head of the school transportation department, Kevin West, after a flood f calls from parents of special education students reported that their children were being picked up late for summer school or were not picked up at all. Some special education students who were placed in summer jobs in the city’s Summerworks youth program missed nearly three weeks of work because of bus problems.

A spokesman for Laidlaw acknowledged the company is having trouble

"We have faced some challenges in implementing this contract," said Adam Carter ‘With any operation this large, it’s normal. We’re working in partnership with DCPS to resolve this."

Chavous said he will lay out his findings and recommendation in a letter to the school system’s transportation contract monitor and will hold a public hearing in the fall School officials said they hope to have Laidlaw’s routing problems solved by the time school starts in September.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator