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New bus company ready for school

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Chris Kielblock (left) and Darla Fritz are the managers for Bud’s Bus Service serving District 518. 1 / 2
BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE The new logo adorning District 518 buses proclaiming Bud’s Bus Service as the new operators.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — In a temporary bus garage on Rowe Avenue, workers from Bud’s Bus Service are hard at work in preparation for the upcoming school year.

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“We are assigning bus numbers and routes to individual kids,” said operations manager Chris Kielblock.

“Basically, we are reworking the routes that they had to try to service the area better,” business manager Darla Fritz said. “We had a few complaints, so we’re trying to make it better.”

Bud’s Bus Service was awarded the transportation contract from District 518 in April, taking over for American Student Transportation. This is the first year of the contract for the Reading-based company.

“I think everything has been positive,” Fritz said. “The drivers, the parents and the school district has been great.

“Everybody seems really optimistic about the change,” Kielblock said.

As the employees work diligently to create a smooth system, Fritz said bus times will not be too different from the previous schedule.

“What we want to communicate now is that times will be similar to what they were last year,” Fritz said. “They may be adjusted in the future, and we’ll let them know.”

There will be a few changes with the new company.

“The bus numbers have changed, but many of the drivers will be the same, so there will be consistency there,” Kielblock said. “They are familiar with the kids, they get to know where each kid goes or what kids to expect on their bus, both morning and afternoon. That way, if you do have any questions about where a kid is, chances are they have a good idea or know who to ask to find out. Consistency is a big thing.”

Bud’s Bus Service currently has “just enough” drivers.

“We have just enough, probably,” Kielblock said. “We’re always open to more. We’ve had some people come back since American left. They had either quit prior to American or during American, but they’ve come back and applied.” 

One change will be that students and parents can check bus information through the school district’s website.

“They will be able to check their bus information on the ISD campus portal,” Fritz said. “All students or parents should be familiar with that. In the campus portal, there will be a transportation tab. The information wasn’t filled out before. We’re going to have the bus number in there and the times and bus stops. We’re working with the school district to try to get that utilized. If parents are in there, they can pull that tab up and know. That’s the goal.”

The bus company’s office is currently located on Rowe Avenue, but the district is in the process of building a new garage that will become a permanent home for the company.

“Our goal is to have someone here to answer the phone,” Kielblock said. “I know that was a big issue before — where they could call the other company and it would ring and ring and maybe get an answering machine.”

“We are trying to do it as a tag-team deal,” Fritz said. “Chris and I both know the routes and will keep each other in the know. It’s always good to have a backup.”

Bud’s Bus Service will handle all the busing, including to and from school, after school, sports, the alternative learning center and adult education.

There are nearly 30 buses in the fleet.

“We have a really new fleet,” Kielblock said. “We got 18 new ones, and we filled in with used from there. We have 29 buses total.”

And early on, the two know there will be questions.

“For the first week or so, we will be there,” Fritz said. “Hopefully, but we haven’t passed that with them yet. For sure, Monday and Tuesday we’ll be at the elementary school. I know that for a fact. We’ll have to see how the high school and middle school want us to tackle it.”

“We will try to answer some questions on site,” Kielblock said.

Busing will begin Monday with the fifth- and ninth-graders, plus St. Mary’s Catholic School students.

“We’re not expecting to walk into this perfectly,” Kielblock said. “We’ll just be grateful for patience.”

“We’re trying our best,” Fritz added.

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen can be reached at 376-7323.