DOWNINGTON, Pa. — On the afternoon of May 12, Laurie Micken, president and owner of school bus contractor On the Go Kids Inc., caught the faint odor of burning rubber.
A fire was breaking out.
The firefighting team nearest to the building, where her company's offices were located, was out on a call when the fire quickly swept across 11 businesses. The offices, along with the building, were destroyed.
Despite the physical impact of the fire, by 9:30 p.m., On the Go Kids Inc. was able to prepare for next-day operations and continue providing service the following morning, just as it has for the past 21 years.
“We reached out to national offices to rent an office trailer, but we couldn’t expedite as quickly as we needed,” Micken said.
None of the company’s vehicles were damaged because they are housed in a separate location. Instead, Micken and her team benefitted from the space that a vehicle from their fleet provided.
A team of three employees, including Micken, decided to use a Type A bus as a command center until they acquired a temporary space. They removed the seats and created a workplace to coordinate next-day operations with drivers and other staff members.
One of On the Go Kids' longtime customers is West Chester Area School District, which began using the contractor's service for single students attending special programs in 1998.
Jo Anne Yarnall, the district's transportation manager, said that On the Go Kids "started out with a few Caravans to help parents transport their children home after sports and to doctor appointments."
The contractor provides the district approximately 54 vehicles, which is a blend of Caravans, Sprinters, 24- and 30-seat mini buses, and a 72-seat Type D bus.
In total, On the Go Kids provides school bus services to three school districts: Downingtown, Boyertown and West Chester, as well as private schools in Philadelphia.
Although there is a lot of work ahead for the company, Micken is resolute.
“Out of crisis, good things evolve,” Micken said. “This misfortune brought out the core strength of the drivers’ organization and office individuals.”
According to Micken, the official cause of the fire is still under investigation, but authorities are looking into the point of origin being in the suites on the south end of the building.