Community Unit District 300 officials have ordered a comprehensive, independent review of its transportation system on the heels of complaints from parents, who say the school buses frequently break down and are improperly maintained.
"The safety of our students has always been our highest priority," District spokeswoman Allison Strupeck said. "We would never knowingly put our children at risk."
The Carpentersville-based school district outsources its school bus services to Warrenville-based Durham School Services, an arrangement that has been in place since 2007. The contract has about eight years until it expires. On average, the district spends $7.5 million on transportation services with Durham, Strupeck said. The exact dollar amount depends on the number of routes the district has each year.
The third-party review, meanwhile, will examine bus routing and scheduling, driving training and supports, vehicle maintenance and inspections, communication procedures and compliance with laws and district policies.
The district has not finalized who will conduct the review.
About 230 buses and vans are dispatched from three facilities based in Algonquin, Carpentersville and Hampshire, officials said. Every day, more than 15,000 students are driven to more than 50 schools, including some outside the district. Drivers travel more than 300,000 miles every month, according to the district.
The investigation comes after some parents complained to the school board last week about a litany of busing issues.
Among the parents was Andrea Krauss, whose daughter runs cross country at Jacobs High School. Krauss said on two occasions the bus transporting athletes to meets broke down.
"Just this school year it seems there are so many breakdowns with buses, there are buses that are late, kids who are getting home late and when the parent tries to call the bus dispatch ... no one's answering the phones at dispatch," Krauss said in a later interview. "It's just all of a sudden this year seems to be a real mess."
Student safety is also a priority for Durham and the system relies on drivers to conduct thorough inspections of their buses before and after they leave the lot and to report any issues to management, said Carina Noble, vice president of communications and marketing for National Express Corporation, which operates as Durham School Services in the United States.
Drivers also have the authority to remove a bus from service for further evaluation, Noble said, adding National Express Corporation is also looking into the complaints lodged at last week's meeting.
"We understand the district will be conducting a review of the transportation system and (we) will work with our customer through the evaluation," Noble said.