Lack of Bus Driver Background Checks Closes Schools

WRIGHT TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Classes in the Crestwood School District have been canceled for Thursday.

The district was forced to cancel classes Wednesday after learning bus drivers had incomplete background checks.

The state auditor general told Crestwood administrators about the incomplete background checks on Wednesday.

That means those drivers are not cleared to bring kids to school.

Crestwood schools and the company the district hired to provide bus service are scrambling to get these background checks up to date.

Becky Altmeyer didn't expect to have her 6-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter home in Mountain Top.

"Luckily, I'm a stay-at-home mom so I can make it work, but I don't know how people with jobs and other plans get around it," Altmeyer said.

The buses that bring hundreds of Crestwood students to and from school sit idle outside Rinehimer Bus Lines near Wapwallopen. Its owner spent much of the day trying to get clearances for his bus drivers.

"We've gotten through in the past two days, 95 percent of them, and we're making great progress so we can get the buses rolling again," said Scott Henry, Rinehimer Bus Lines.

Crestwood's contract with the school bus company indicates the bus company is responsible for performing background checks on its drivers.

"When you contract out the transportation, sometimes districts believe it's then the bus company's responsibility. They should do it, but the responsibility ultimately falls on the district," said Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

DePasquale says all school districts in the state were warned in January to keep up-to-date files on school bus drivers. He says Crestwood failed.

"It is extremely rare that a school district has zero information," DePasquale said.

Crestwood solicitor Jack Dean tells Newswatch 16 that student safety is the system's top priority. He adds the district is doing everything it can to get the buses running and the kids back in school.

Robert Altmeyer, age 6, may like the day off, but his mother fears more unexpected cancellations will mean more school days in June.

"I really hope the teachers, as well as the children,  aren't penalized for this, because it was no one's fault," Becky Altmeyer said.

A standard background check takes two weeks, but school officials have asked for an expedited check that puts bus drivers for Crestwood's schools at the top of the list, to do what it takes to get kids back in class as soon as possible.

3 comments

  • Keith Taylor

    They claim that student safety is their top priority, then they should have made sure that the bus drivers were thoroughly checked out!! No excuses!!

  • Matt Berns

    Cheap labor is more important than safe labor. How many of those drivers will be working on Friday? How many will have had a criminal background?

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