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Indianapolis Public Schools board approves new transportation contract

School bus
Posted at 11:12 PM, Jan 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 00:21:11-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Public Schools Board of Commissioners voted Thursday night to approve a contract with First Student Transportation, a move that will eliminate the school district's transportation department and end a contract with Durham School Services, which could potentially impact hundreds of current employees.

Beginning July 1, all 305 of IPS' bus routes will be operated by First Student, which the school district said would save $7 million.

In a statement, IPS said the new contract with First Student will "improve the quality and reliability of transportation for our students and provide increased peace of mind for families. We value our employees and their loyal service and will work cooperatively with First Student to help all successful teammates find a new job within the company.”

Currently, transportation is run by both IPS and Durham School Services. Both organizations split staff, bus routes and operational duties. The move has caused concern among transportation employees who fear they will lose their jobs.

Since first learning about the IPS transportation plan, RTV6 has received conflicting information about the numbers of IPS bus drivers and attendants employed by Durham School Services who will be impacted by this change.

In an effort to show the transparency of our reporting, RTV6 is sharing both numbers provided by IPS and Durham School Services.

On Monday, Edward Flavin, a spokesperson for Durham School Services told RTV6 via written statement that roughly 550 Durham School Services employees were impacted by IPS's plan to end the transportation contract with Durham in favor of First Student.

"We have almost 550 team members in Indianapolis serving IPS. These team members include approximately 250 drivers, 250 monitors and 30 administrative staff members," Flavin said.

IPS spokesperson Carrie Black contacted RTV6 Wednesday refuting the numbers provided by Durham School Services. While Black confirmed IPS is laying off 135 employees employed directly by the district, she said the number of Durham employees affected is 423.

Black said the number she cited comes from the Indianapolis-based manager of Durham School Services. According to numbers sent to RTV6 by Black, Durham has 228 drivers, 168 monitors, 16 operations staff and 11 mechanics.

As of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Flavin, of Durham School Services, told RTV6 via email, "We stand by the numbers that I provided to you on Monday."

As of 6:30 p.m. Thursday, IPS's Black said the numbers she provided RTV6 more closely reflect the regular numbers they receive from Durham, who she said runs 221 routes and monitors only go on the buses that have students with special needs.

According to IPS, all 135 people currently employed by Indianapolis Public Schools Transportation will lose their jobs after summer school ends in June. The number of impacted workers employed by Durham School Services ranges from 423 to 550, according to numbers provided to RTV6 by Indianapolis Public Schools Durham School Services.

Black said 558 jobs will be available under First Student. AFSCME union leaders representing staff from both IPS and Durham School Services said the number of jobs available increased from 335 on Tuesday to 558 on Thursday. Dave Robertson of AFSCME said that number increased after ongoing conversations with IPS leaders.

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