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Santa Clarita School Official Cites Renewed Bus Problems

Times Staff Writer

Santa Clarita Valley high school trustees will receive a report tonight saying that school bus service by Laidlaw Transit, after improving in November and December, has fallen once again to unsatisfactory levels.

“It just went to hell in a handcart,” said Jim Bown, director of support services in the William S. Hart Union High School District. The Hart and Newhall school districts contract with Laidlaw, the nation’s largest school bus company, to transport 3,600 Santa Clarita schoolchildren.

Last month, it appeared Laidlaw had resolved most of the scheduling problems that had plagued the company’s operations in the valley since September, Bown said Monday. But when students returned from the winter break last Tuesday, he said, buses were late and drivers failed to show up for work, forcing supervisors and dispatchers to drive the buses.

Late Runs

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Last Thursday, two morning runs and six afternoon runs were late, Bown said. The next day, he said, school buses were late four times in the morning and five times in the afternoon.

Bown said the flu season may have been to blame for the shortage of drivers. But even so, the return of sloppy bus service, if only for five days, has been frustrating, he said.

Bown, who receives daily updates on Laidlaw’s performance, is scheduled to deliver a report on the company’s record tonight before the Hart School Board. Trustees in the Hart and Newhall districts have complained about Laidlaw’s service for months and in November threatened to sever their $1-million contract with the company unless service improved. Laidlaw responded by housing a dozen drivers in Santa Clarita hotels to make sure drivers would show up on time to work.

Ed Judson, a Laidlaw senior vice president, said Monday that the company would move swiftly to restore better bus service. He said the practice of housing drivers in hotels, discontinued when classes started last week, would be resumed promptly.

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Judson said he was concerned about the complaints about bus service in the last week, but said the overall performance of Laidlaw in the Santa Clarita Valley has improved day by day.


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