Shawnee Mission approves $10.5 million bus contract for school year; First Student apologizes for poor service

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First Student will be back as the bus company taking Shawnee Mission students to school this school year with an increase of nearly $800,000 in its annual contract.

The Shawnee Mission School Board approved the new contract for $10,500,000 as the company made an apology for its performance during the past school year. Last year, First Student was paid $9,708,870.

The board had been told in April that First Student was asking for a price increase far in excess of what was laid out in the contract. First Student had been plagued during the school year with delayed and missed pickups.

“We did not meet the district’s …. expectations last year,” Chris Coyle, area general manager for First Student, told the board this week. He blamed the service problems primarily on a shortage of drivers. Coyle said low unemployment in Johnson County and a national driver shortage were contributors.

The company, Coyle said, had been paying a driver wage lower than competing districts. Next year, the driver rate will move up $2.50 per hour to $16.50. The rate increase to Shawnee Mission will keep the company from losing money on the contract and put it in a position to compete for drivers, he indicated.

“I take full responsibility for the service issues (from last year),” Coyle said. A new plan will allow the company to text parents about service problems.

The board approved the rate increase unanimously without comment other than a question regarding the texting program.