FHSD Takes Over Busing From First Student

The district is going to start controlling its own school transportation in district for the benefit of students


Credit to Ella Manthey

Buses begin to line up outside in the FHN parking lot as they wait for students to board. Recently the Francis Howell School District has made the decision to get new buses for schools. These buses will be exclusive to the Francis Howell School District and will be in place within the next few months.

By Sophia Schmidt, North Star Reporter

In 2019, the FHSD is currently reviewing the busing system. While they’re looking to change it by possibly renting or buying new buses, the Board of Education is still undecided on what they want to do. The decision they make could affect the students and athletes at FHN.

“We currently have a contract signed with First Student,” District Superintendent Mary Hendricks-Harris said. “It will be expiring soon, so instead of paying the same cost to have them continue, we devised an alternative method where we handle transportation within the district.”

FHSD’s current bus transportation system is very different than the new system the district is adopting. The new system wouldn’t be contracted by outside companies that have buses and bus drivers, such as First Student. Instead, FHSD may hire bus drivers, and perhaps buy buses themselves if decided, through a new department. It’s headed currently by, the district’s Jennifer Simpson the Director of Transportation. During the first months of the transfer, they are expecting fall-backs and late buses or mistakes in bus routes. The cost is undetermined as of now, until then, the district will decide whether to buy buses or rent them. Sports busing may also be an extra cost because as of now, it will cost more than what it does when included in the current contract. This will determine whether extracurricular busing is offered in the future.

“Myself and the CFO, Kevin Supple, had been talking about this idea for months,” Hendricks-Harris said. “We have heard all good outcomes from schools who have made this switch in recent years.”

The reason for this switch is to better control transportation within the district by having communication through a department. It is also to save money, more than they would have if keeping the contract with First Student.

“Our hope is that there’s a greater responsiveness with buses. Because right now, we’re scrambling to figure out the situation if and when a bus is late,” FHN Principal Nathan Hostetler says.

Currently, FHSD has been following the Rockwood district in Eureka, Missouri, and their progress after doing the same thing. Good outcomes include saving money from being spent on companies that do bus driving, and instead have it available within the district to be used on school repairs or anything costly. Another reason for the district to make the switch would be the rise in communication between the school and the buses. Currently, if there is a delay with the buses, such as one being late, the school has to send someone to a bus and ask the bus driver to radio the bus that is late to figure out the issue. If there was a direct line from the school to the buses, they could contact buses much more easily. The district is discussing where to obtain buses and drivers by putting out applications for buses and seeing whether or not a better fit would be to buy or lease them.

“One advantage would be the sense of community.” Hendricks-Harris says. “When a bus driver is in-house, the direct connection with no in between will really help solidify transport in FHSD.”

Though, this opportunity may have some small hiccups, it may be hard to find bus drivers. Missouri is a state where all the available driving jobs are mostly taken up. The possible flaws throughout the process of starting a district-wide busing service may be prevalent for a bit of time until they are resolved as it continues. Late buses and routing mistakes are possible in the beginning. After the first months, there are hopes that these will be eliminated to make for a cheaper, more stable system.

“This is a very big undertaking- in the beginning, there is definitely a possibility for service disruptions, in things like routing,” Chief Financial Officer Kevin Supple said.

The launch date for this service is July 1, 2019. The goals are for students to regain better bus service with fewer mistakes in routing, to save money for the district to spend on making our schools a better place, and to grow the area in which FHSD buses can travel.

“We’re excited for this new opportunity,” Supple said. “It’ll be a lot of work, but a good outcome for students, faculty, principals, and FHSD as a whole.”