Busing issues

WORTHINGTON -- In addition to homework and fall sports, the new school year has brought a plethora of busing issues for some District 518 families. Susan Hansberger, the mother of two sons younger than age 10, said Thursday that she has had sever...

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Prairie Elementary students prepare to board American Student Transportation buses Thursday afternoon following classes.

WORTHINGTON -- In addition to homework and fall sports, the new school year has brought a plethora of busing issues for some District 518 families.

Susan Hansberger, the mother of two sons younger than age 10, said Thursday that she has had several concerns so far with the District 518 bus company, American Student Transportation.

During the first week of school, she said her children had four different drop-off locations and three different pick-up locations. She said the last few days have been "relatively consistent."

Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh has also expressed concerns regarding the busing company, which is based in Maple Grove.

"I have a granddaughter who's yet to get brought home on a regular route," Oberloh said. "First, she was dropped off at the library, when she lives by Centennial Park."


Hansberger's other concerns include getting timely information from the bus company and the safety of children.

"I sincerely hope they can resolve (this issue) while keeping the kids' safety in mind," Hansberger said. "If I ran my business like this, I'd be fired."

District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard said that any safety concerns are paramount.

"Not everything in busing is perfect, but we will address any safety concerns immediately," he said.

Landgaard made clear that he's not defending the bus company, but that it has managed to correct the issues to his knowledge.

"If the kids are on the bus, they are safe and will eventually get home," Landgaard said.

Jeff Knutson, terminal manager for American Student Transportation, voluntarily provided the Daily Globe with copies of 14 busing complaints that he has received via email this school year.

Common issues deal with safety concerns, buses picking up children too far from their houses, buses driving by their houses and children having to ride for too long each day.


Knutson said that since taking over this summer, he has received daily concerns regarding the busing system. He said he responds to each, usually on the same day.

"It doesn't matter how minute it is to one person - every concern holds the same water," Knutson said. "They're all valid, it's just a matter of how can we get to them."

Marty Whelan, a bus driver for the company, said that there are valid concerns, but that routes are being redone to address the problems.

"If there's an issue, maybe with a special-needs child, they can come in and usually we'll add on a stop and take care of it," Whelan said. "We try to work with everybody as best as we can."

Knutson said that without "going through the proper channel," it's against the law to change the pick-up and drop-off locations.

"As valid as the complaints may be, we've got to follow the law," he said.

Knutson explained that the majority of the complaints stem from the company receiving the wrong student addresses from the schools. He said he is working on getting the right data into the system.

Knutson said that aside from incorrect addresses, some students scheduled to ride a certain bus are not getting on that bus.


"I'm guessing that they're hopping on another bus and going to their friend's (house) or something like that," he said.

When asked if there are any valid concerns that need addressed, Knutson said: "Absolutely; in every business there are concerns. The reality of business is that if you please 100 percent of your customers, you're doing something wrong. You're going to shoot for 100 percent, but it's unrealistic. In my (previous) businesses that I ran, I felt that if I was in the high 90s, I was doing pretty darn good."

Regarding complaints that some parents have had trouble reaching the company, Knutson said: "I'm almost offended that someone says they haven't been able to get a hold of (me). I take calls all the time."

Landgaard said the company was brought on for the start of the 2011-2012 school year. American Student Transportation is on a two-year contract, with the potential for a two-year renewal. Prior to that, the now-dissolved Kempema Bros. company, which was locally owned, bussed students for decades.

Hansberger said she hopes that the board will "reconsider the company for next year."

Knutson, for his part, said the company should remain in Worthington.

"Everything is up for bids," he said. "American Transportation is the only company to bid this school district. (The board) takes the lower bid."

He added that his company offers the best busing service, "without a doubt."


Hansberger and Oberloh said that parents should voice their concerns to the school board.

"I think parents need to get organized and meet with the board and the bus company," Oberloh said.

Parents can voice their opinion at the beginning of every school board meeting, Landgaard said. The next meeting will be at 5:15 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Worthington High School Media Center.

Daily Globe Reporter Kayla Strayer may be reached at


Brian Korthals/Daily Globe District 518 students exit their bus, owned and operated by American Student Transportation, following classes Thursday afternoon.

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