KCPS officially ends its contract with Reliable
— After a brief and tumultuous relationship, Kent County Public Schools and Reliable Transportation have come to a mutual decision to cancel the bus contact.
Reliable was to end its services at the end of the school day Friday, Sept. 29, KCPS Superintendent Karen Couch said at an emergency Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Sept. 27. Student transportation services were to be taken over by local contractors and districtowned buses on Monday.
“Starting the first day of the 2017-18 school year, the contractor had difficulties in fulfilling the terms of the bus contract due to unforeseeable circumstances that resulted in the contractor being unable to fulfill some of its driver, route obligations and making the bus contract no longer feasible,” Couch told board members Sept. 27.
The district put the student transportation contract out to bid this year to save money. It was awarded to Reliable, but since the first day of school the company has been plagued by widespread reports of missed stops, late buses, mechanical issues and other complaints.
Couch said there will be a daily refund for the routes Reliable was unable to cover and field trips it was unable to supply buses for. She said Reliable also will provide reimbursement for district employees who were assigned to accompany drivers on routes.
Fingerprinting and drug testing, which was required for the drivers, will be reimbursed back to the district, Couch said.
With Reliable gone, KCPS in now in the process of acquiring the amount of buses for its new fleet, Couch said.
Joe Wheeler, supervisor of operations, said two spare buses were picked up Sept. 25 from Harford County. He said they were being inspected.
Three buses have come in from American Bus Sales and the rest were to be delivered by the end of last week.
Wheeler said they are wait- ing on one from Blue Bird, which will be delivered later in October.
As for drivers, KCPS will be using a hybrid system of drivers from the district and private contractors, Wheeler said. He is in the process of recruiting two drivers who have their permits. They need background checks and fingerprinting, but he said they can be ready in two weeks.
Couch said she spoke with state Sen. Steve Hershey, R-36-Upper Shore, at the Kent County Commissioners meeting Sept. 26. Couch said he offered assistance in expediting the proper credentials for drivers.
Wheeler said he has a driver from Middletown, Del. who expressed interest in driving for Kent County.
Couch said Reliable also will assist the district by assigning two drivers to the county for a week.
Until the district can find a new location to store its buses, they will be parked at Kent County’s Public Works facility near Chestertown.
“We are just incredibly thankful that we have a place to park the buses and that the county has agreed to allow us to access facilities and the fuel that we need to move forward. It’s definitely going to help us,” Couch said.
Couch said she spoke with Amy Moredock, director of planning, housing and zoning for the county, about the need to identify a permanent location for buses.
“It just seems like everything is starting to happen just in the last few days,” Couch said. “We definitely are going to fill the positions and we are going to make it work until we get the numbers that we need.”
Board President Trish McGee thanked everyone for work they have done since a contentious Sept. 11 board meeting, at which parents voiced concerns over school buses and Reliable’s service, to address student transportation.
“We all are very grateful for everything that has been done,” McGee said.
McGee, Couch and board Vice President Bryan Williams all thanked local bus contractors who came back to assist KCPS.
Friday was expected to be the last day on the job for Reliable Transportation providing student transportation for Kent County Public Schools. The Baltimore-based company has received widespread complaints from parents since the start of school.