St. Croix school bus service reinstated after Education Department, company reach accord
Published: September 2, 2013
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ST. CROIX - Less than 24 hours after V.I. Education Department officials released a statement that school buses would not be running for students in the St. Croix district on Tuesday, the department issued a new statement Saturday saying they had reached a new two-year agreement with the bus company and reinstated the service.
Education spokeswoman Ananta Pancham said during the weekend that a new two-year agreement hammered out Friday evening by Education Department officials and contractor Abramson Enterprises, Inc. will allow for the continuation of school bus service on St. Croix.
Pancham said negotiations between the two sides stalled after Abramson issued the an ultimatum, which involved the Education Department paying close to $318,000 in up-front costs in addition to a fuel surcharge.
The government's team was able Friday to cut the up-front cost down to $150,000. The agreement, which covers the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, is expected to expire next September, according to Pancham.
Acting Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory said the department is thankful to Rudy Abramson and his team, along with the members of their own negotiation team, for working together to resolve the situation amicably.
"Our top priority was making sure our students were transported safely once school opens on Tuesday, and we did what we needed to in order to make that happen," Frett-Gregory said in Saturday's prepared statement.
The news on Friday that bus service would not be available upset students, parents and community leaders, who said the lack of service would create not only a safety issue for students who may be left stranded on the streets or walking long distances to sparsely populated areas, but it also would create an undue financial burden on parents who would have to pay the cost of public transportation to and from school daily.
"We also want to apologize to our parents, once again, for creating anxiety, but it was very important for us to let everyone know ahead of time what the situation could have been," Frett-Gregory said.
Frett-Gregory said the efforts to get the buses ready took team work and Bureau of Motor Vehicles Director Jerris Browne was also effective in getting staff in on the weekend to ensure that since the new contract was in place, the buses could be inspected and registered over the weekend, in time for the first day of school.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.