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WL-WV extends First Student contract

Buses and drivers provided through 2020

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District has seen student transportation provider First Student Inc. come under scrutiny at different points over the past few years.

Nonetheless, the WL-WV School Board unanimously voted Aug. 3 to ratify a contract extension with First Student providing transportation for the school district through 2020.

The five-year extension is similar to the previous contract — which expired July 30 — and includes a 5.1 percent increase in cost to the district.

“The district thinks it’s a reasonable response that will help (First Student), primarily with some of the employment issues that they may have,” Operations Manager Tim Woodley said at the board meeting. “It will ensure they’re employing really, really good drivers.”

First Student has provided the WL-WV school district with transportation since 2007 — including home-to-school bus service and activity buses for athletics, events, field trips and special education.

Prior to the vote, board member Betty Reynolds asked Woodley if the district had considered other bids, like the Lake Oswego School District had when it decided to part ways with First Student in May in favor of Student Transportation of America.

Woodley said the district took into consideration the investment First Student made in 2007 to install its facilities, including one on Willamette Falls Drive and its newer facility on Elligsen Way in Sherwood.

“(The extension) is a recognition that there’s an investment in the fleet of busses and facilities necessary to maintain continuity and bus service for a public school system like this,” Woodley said. “It’s not something that you want to regularly change.”

Woodley said the district is more than satisfied with the company’s continued efforts to improve safety and implement the latest equipment in its buses, and with the help of the 5.1 percent increase it will be able to add 10-15 brand new buses.

“We’ve had regular conversations with their management, including (First Student Transportation Manager Irene Whittaker), about performance, about equipment, about employees, about employee benefits, prices, costs, all that sort of thing,” Woodley said.

And while the district and board has decided to renew First Student’s contract for five more years, it doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t make a change to a new transportation provider in 2020.

“With a five-year provision they know that with good performance there is the opportunity to be extended after five years,” Woodley said. “I do believe that this might be the last five year extension we do with First Student, which would put us back out on the street and open to new bidders. It’s not a forever thing.”

In other board matters, board member Keith Steele asked where district schools stood in terms of earthquake preparedness in light of the recent discussion of Cascadia that has taken place across the nation.

Woodley said that most are new enough to meet all the current standards. Bolton, Cedaroak Park and Stafford primaries, three of the district’s oldest schools save Sunset Primary — which will be rebuilt in the next few years — all received significant seismic upgrades when libraries were built in the middle of each, increasing their structural integrity.

And while all the district’s schools would theoretically fare well in an earthquake scenario, Woodley reminded the board that buildings are designed to protect students, not necessarily stay perfectly intact.

Contact Andrew Kilstrom at 503-636-1281 ext. 112 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..