School bus co. that threatened to strand thousands of students is now compliant: district

Long Island

HUNTINGTON, Long Island — An on-again, off-again problem involving a school bus company no longer being able to provide service to many students in a Long Island school district appears to have subsided, at least for now. Still, the school district has work to do to ensure that every family is convinced that the crisis has been resolved.

Concerns first arose on Wednesday, when the Huntington Coach Corporation announced in a statement that read in part, “the continued lack of qualified applicants and the time needed to get drivers trained, certified and vetted through the New York State and federal background check system have been daunting challenges.”

“Unfortunately,” the statement went on to say, “we have informed the Huntington Union Free School District that…. Huntington Coach Corp will be ceasing all transportation services for that district as of the close of business Friday October 8, 2021. None of the other School Districts we provide transportation services for will be affected by this action.”

The last sentence of the company’s statement was in bold print.

The situation led to many delays in bus service for students on Thursday morning  and afternoon, but late on Thursday afternoon, the Huntington schools superintendent released an update.

“I am relieved to advise you,” the statement from Superintendent James Polansky read in part, “that we have now received assurances from Huntington Coach Corporation officials that they will, in fact, honor the terms and conditions associated with all existing contracts with the Huntington Unified School District.”

“There will be no interruption of services,” the statement continued. 

“The route delays experienced today will carry into tomorrow…” the statement went on to say, “however,” it continued, “the company is working to resolve the majority, if not all such delays by the start of next week.”

Copies of the contracts involving the school district and the bus company were released by the superintendent. They show that the company was being paid more than $11 million to provide transportation for students for the 2021-2022 school year, as well as for the two school years afterward.
The fact that there was apparently a sudden breach of contract left many parents in the district skeptical. Keith Lelewich, a parent at Huntington High School, said that something simply didn’t feel right.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “Either somebody didn’t read the contract properly,” or there were issues with the bus company’s finances, he said.

Lydia Mueger, another Huntington High School parent, said that the situation is having a wide-ranging effect.

“Everybody in the community is suffering for it,” she said. “Right now, the kids have had enough.”

She said that after dealing with so many challenges over the last two school years, “The last thing you need is how to figure out how to get to and from school, to and from sports, to and from anything.”

The school board is holding a special meeting on Thursday evening at 7:30, at the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet Intermediate School. 

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