DALLAS — School buses are back on the road here, but they no longer bear the name of Dallas County Schools, formerly the region’s key pupil transportation provider.
School districts in the Dallas area have had to come up with new transportation plans since residents voted last November to dissolve Dallas County Schools.
In recent years, the intermediate agency operated about 1,500 school buses for a dozen districts in north Texas, transporting around 70,000 students daily. But the agency racked up debt and became embroiled in a stop-arm camera controversy. In April, Dallas County Schools’ former superintendent, Rick Sorrells, pleaded guilty to taking more than $3 million in bribes and kickbacks from camera supplier Force Multiplier Solutions.
After voters abolished Dallas County Schools, a dissolution committee was formed to distribute the agency’s assets and to oversee transportation through July 31.
“This task has now been completed, and operations have been discontinued,” the dissolution committee said in a message posted on the former Dallas County Schools website.
With a new school year starting up this month, some Dallas-area school districts are now running their own school bus operations, while others have outsourced the service to a private contractor.
Dallas Independent School District (ISD) is among those that brought their transportation in-house. As reported earlier this year, Dallas ISD needed to hire some 1,200 transportation employees in six months.
Dallas ISD has 812 school buses going into daily route operation to transport 40,000 students. When school started on Monday, the district’s new transportation service didn’t go exactly as planned. The district said on its website that some buses ran late, and some drivers who had applied and were processed did not show up as expected on the first day.
“Also, like any school district, there have been unexpected challenging factors that come with transporting new kids and additional bus routes,” Dallas ISD administrators said in a statement on Wednesday as they thanked families for their patience.
Deputy Superintendent Scott Layne said that on-time arrival rates are increasing daily, but Dallas ISD is still about 100 bus drivers short. The district will hold a job fair on Saturday to recruit more school bus drivers, multiple-passenger van drivers, and bus monitors. Also, Dallas ISD extended the hours of its transportation call center to help address questions and concerns.
Just north of Dallas, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD is another former customer of Dallas County Schools that transitioned to its own transportation service. Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD reported recently that it was purchasing 10 new school buses for the 2018-19 school year, which began on Monday. Lancaster ISD and Richardson ISD have also brought their school bus services in-house.
Meanwhile, some Dallas-area school districts opted to continue outsourcing transportation of their students. Former Dallas County Schools customers Cedar Hill ISD and DeSoto ISD — partnering as the South Dallas County Transportation Cooperative — selected First Student as their new transportation provider.
First Student is now operating, maintaining, and managing all school bus services for the cooperative, serving about 3,200 students. Cedar Hill ISD started school on Aug. 15, and DeSoto ISD began on Monday.
“We trust First Student can leverage the best practices, technologies, and processes needed to deliver quality, consistent service to our families,” Kellie Spencer, deputy superintendent of Cedar Hill ISD, said in a press release.
“We’re proud to have been selected to provide transportation for the South Dallas County Transportation Cooperative,” said Tony Vidrine, First Student area general manager. “We will work together to make sure children in each district have a safe and reliable way to get to and from school.”
As previously reported, First Student also won a five-year contract to provide transportation for Irving ISD, another former customer of Dallas County Schools.