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First Student buses could soon be off Columbia streets

Monday night Columbia school board members are meeting to vote and discuss some big issues.

On the agenda is a vote on a school bus contract worth more than $50 million.

There will also be discussion about plans to allow the safety and security director and his assistant to carry guns in schools.

For the first time in close to 40 years First Student has not come in as the lowest bidder.

Instead a Canada based organization with U.S. Headquarters in New Jersey bidding $2 million less over a five year contract.

Student Transportation of America is Columbia Public School Board’s lowest transportation bidder this year.

Student Transportation Inc, is the third largest provider of school bus transportation in North America operating more than 11,000 buses.

“We want to make sure we are contracting with the company that can provide that reliable and safe service,” said Michelle Baumstark, the Columbia Public School District.

Currently more than 8,000 students in Columbia are transported each by bus.

Buses run by First Student.

A company that has had a couple of mishaps recently.

“There have been issues that have been reported. I don’t think its different than any other service oriented business or organization where you have things that don’t always go as you would expect them to. Certainly that is one of the reasons we are looking at a different vendor,” said Baumstark.

In the past year ABC 17 News reported cases in which children did not get picked up by their bus.

In March a First Student bus driver allegedly hit a 7-year-old student with papers he was holding.

The whole thing was caught on video.

Most recently a young girl was dropped off at the wrong location.

Baumstark told ABC 17 News each year the school district review their transportation contract, and for the first time First Student is not the lowest bidder.

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