The new bus company serving Millard Public Schools experienced typical delays on the first day of school but no major problems, a company official and school district spokeswoman said Monday.
David Prince, the Omaha general manager of Student Transport of Nebraska, said the company will be making adjustments based on issues that cropped up.
“We’ll be tweaking the system probably for the next week or two weeks, but just minor tweaks,” he said. “The major part, or what we call the brains of it, has already been established.”
Prince said a big test still looms: taking over the bus routes in Omaha Public Schools.
“The big one is on Wednesday,” he said.
“We’re excited about what we’ve done over in Millard for the first day, and we’re just hoping that it transfers over into Omaha for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week.”
The company this year took over the contract previously held by First Student, which also handled routes in both districts.
Millard spokeswoman Rebecca Kleeman also said there were no major snags.
Kleeman said some students got mixed up and got on the wrong bus in the afternoon, but they were eventually delivered home.
Prince said some buses ran five to eight minutes behind, which he attributed to usual first-day problems.
“A lot of times, if they are first-time students, parents want to be out with students as they get on the bus,” he said. “A lot of times, parents want to meet the bus drivers. So that may take one or two minutes.
“It can delay the route a little bit,” Prince said, “but nothing to the extent where the buses ran late getting to school.”
Some kids still don’t know where the bus stop is or the time for pickup, Prince said. Stops change from year to year. The school districts use computer programs to develop the routes.
The company had three spare drivers available to pick up children where needed.
In most cases, when students were not at the bus stop, the driver would call in and the company would contact the parents. Or if parents called to say their child missed the pickup, the company would call to see if the driver could swing back by to pick up the child.
Nearly 70 buses are required for the Millard routes, Prince said.
About 90 percent of the drivers that Student Transport hired had worked for First Student.
The company did test runs on the Millard routes, and also on the routes for Omaha Public Schools, using printed maps. The drivers spent two days last week driving the OPS routes.
“The computer programs don’t take into account construction going on in an area, where sometimes you can’t make a right turn on certain streets,” he said. “So we have the drivers go out and do a dry run and come back and make corrections.”
The company is using a fleet of 435 new propane-powered school buses to serve the two districts.
Bus company officials boast that this fleet is the largest propane school bus fleet in the country, ahead of the Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles Unified School Districts.
The Millard and Omaha school boards approved a four-year, $25 million-a-year agreement with the company. The OPS portion will be $19.5 million a year, an annual savings of about $300,000 a year from the previous contract. Millard will pay the remaining $5.5 million.
The agreement includes an option for a two-year extension.