Seattle Public Schools halt bidding process for new school bus contract

A week after a state investigation uncovered hundreds of safety violations by school bus company First Student, Seattle Public Schools on Thursday abruptly canceled its bidding process for a new contract of bus.

First Student, the school district’s longtime carrier, was in negotiations with the district for this new contract, said Ritu Narayan, CEO of Zum, the competing bidder on the contract.

A district spokesperson did not provide further information on why the process was canceled or whether it was related to the carrier’s violations, which included repeated failures to test drivers for drug use. and alcohol.

“Seattle Public Schools has determined that to acquire the most effective and efficient transportation services, it is in the interest of the district to reissue a request for proposal,” SPS spokesman Tim Robinson wrote. , in an email.

Nayaran said an email from the district this morning gave no information on why the process was cancelled, but urged the company to resubmit a bid once the process reopens.

She said her California-headquartered company also asked the district to reconsider the deals between the two carriers because Zum’s offer was less expensive and scored higher in the review rubric. of the district.

“We are very happy, despite everything, that the offer is open,” said Nayaran.

A spokesperson for First Student did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission, which released the survey, only regulates charter bus service provided by First Student, which includes excursions, sports and special events. But in some places, like Seattle, the company uses the same vehicles and employs the same drivers for daily school transportation.

The district closed the process to new offers on Dec. 8 after changing the deadline three times. Zum and First Student were the only bidders. Earlier this month, district officials said they had entered negotiations on a select offer, but did not say which company.

The current contract with First Student is worth $40 million per year.

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