The Spring Grove Area school district has decided not to keep Durham School Services as its school bus provider beyond this school year.

Durham's contract will be finished at the end of the school year. The district is negotiating with two other companies to determine costs and terms, said district business manager George Ioannidis.

Whichever new contract the district chooses, it will most likely be more expensive than the existing contract, Ioannidis said. Durham's proposal would have cost the least at face value, he added.

Durham has been in labor negotiations with its bus drivers since February, when union members authorized a strike. Some of the union members also voted in March to decertify the union, though some union officials questioned the decertification's validity. Several community members have also voiced concerns at previous school board meetings about the safety of Durham's 87 school buses and vans.

The decision not to go with Durham was not related to either issue, said Lisa Smith, the district's spokeswoman.

"It just so happens the contract we had with Durham was expiring at the same time this labor dispute was going on," Smith said.

The reason: Ioannidis said the decision to choose another bus contractor is because of concerns in the proposed contract presented to the district by Durham.

Certain elements of Durham's proposal, such as termination language and liability clauses, did not follow what school officials felt was appropriate, he said.

"In this instance, we decided that was not going to work for us," Ioannidis said.

The school board will now choose to award a new contract to Lincoln Bus Lines in Hanover or to Red Lion Bus Co., a division of Krapf. Those are the top two recommendations from the administration out of six submitted proposals.

Spring Grove does not own or lease the buses to transport the district's 3,500 students, a condition that would not change with either company, Ioannidis said.

The school bus drivers are employed by Durham and will need to apply with the new bus company, not the school district, he added.

"This is the purest form of outsourcing," Ioannidis said. "Who they hire and how is up to the company."

The school board must decide on one company at its next school board meeting Monday, April 21, so the selected company can make sure it has the necessary number of vehicles and staff.

"No matter who they choose, the new contractor has to have a specific amount of time to ramp up and be ready," Smith said.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at