Durham lawyers: CCSD made ‘illegal decision’ by choosing another bus company

Updated: Jan. 31, 2020 at 6:08 PM EST
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Durham School Services’ lawyers filed an appeal on Friday in one of their last attempts to stay the Charleston County School District’s bus company.

The appeal comes after a failed protest of the district’s decision to move forward with a different company. District officials announced at the beginning of the month that they intend to award a contract to First Student, a division of FirstGroup, to be in charge of its buses.

Durham has since hired attorney Mark Peper to represent them.

“The illegal decision to award the contract to the other bidder will divert almost five million dollars of limited District resources from the classroom,” Peper said. “Durham’s proposal allows the District to invest those savings where it is needed most, helping our teachers educate our children, while allowing Durham to continue to provide first-rate transportation services to the District.”

The company’s protest failed last week, but they’re hoping to get another shot at a contract.

“The review panel should either award the transportation contract to Durham or reopen the bid process to allow the bids to be reviewed under the proper criteria,” the appeal said. “Durham requests a hearing before the review panel to more fully present its appeal.”

Only two companies put in a bid in the fall: Durham and First Student.

FirstGroup is a Scotland-based transportation company that also runs Greyhound. It’s division First Student operates school buses in more than 400 locations in the United States and Canada.

The contract for First Student, if awarded, would be for $24.7 million and would go into effect on July 1, 2020. It would then expire on June 30, 2021. The contract has the option to be extended at the end of each school year.

Right now, FirstGroup “is exploring options including possible disposal of its North American school bus and transit divisions,” according to a Bloomberg report.

When asked about the possible changes to their company, First Student spokesperson Jen Biddinger said, “We are excited about the possibility of providing transportation for the Charleston County School District.”

Durham has provided bus services for the school district for more than a decade and has faced criticism from some parents for poor service. This school year alone, Durham has faced a number of problems with late buses and a bus driver shortage.

The school district did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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