UPDATE: Waterloo school bus company under fire again - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: Waterloo school bus company under fire again

Terry Reed Dykstra Terry Reed Dykstra

There's more trouble for the bus company that transports students in the Waterloo Community School District.  Monday, the manager of First Student bus company turned himself into the Black Hawk County jail.  Terry Dykstra, 49, was then arrested for allegedly falsifying bus inspection records. 

It's just the latest in a string of problems this year for First Student.  Last fall, an Evansdale kindergartner was let off at the wrong bus stop.  Then just a few days later, Bunger Middle School parents waited anxiously as the activities bus ran nearly two hours late.  Now, the manager of the company is facing criminal charges.  It's all got the school district looking to other options for transporting students.

First Student has had its share of problems during the past year.  That's part of the reason the company contacted KWWL last fall to showcase its safety practices.  But once again, the bus company is coming under fire as its manager, Terry Dykstra, has turned himself in for failing to fix deficiencies on buses.

"If they're not doing what they're supposed to do, what happens if the brakes go out on one of those buses?  Those are massive pieces of machinery that could cause some major damage and harm to other people," said Waterloo parent Margaret Theis-Barnett.

But the district believes the problems that weren't fixed were minor and didn't put students at risk.

"You know, a deficiency in a bus doesn't mean there's a safety issue.  So there's a range of many things that could be identified, from a tear in a seat to a door gasket that needs to be replaced or glass that has a crack in it," said Sharon Miller with Waterloo Community Schools.

The district first learned of the bus problems in April and believed First Student had fixed them.  But regardless of how minor the issues might have been, the district says buses should always be in tip top shape.  So it's launched an internal investigation into the allegedly falsified maintenance records. 

And since the contract with First Student bus service is up this month, the district will also actively be seeking proposals for a new transportation company.

"One of the things that we hold as the highest priority is student safety.  We want to make sure everything runs well in our transportation services.  There are a number of criteria a new proposal would be evaluated on," Miller said.

And for parents like Margaret Barnett, who have experienced their fare share of issues with First Student, the process of selecting a new bus company can't get underway soon enough.

We did talk with Waterloo school board president Mike Young, and he says the situation with the bus contract will be a topic of discussion next Monday during the monthly board meeting.  So indeed, a new bus company could be driving your kids to class next school year.

We also spoke with Terry Dykstra, but he declined to comment on the investigation.  First Student's corporate headquarters has yet to issue its statement on the matter.  Meanwhile, Waterloo Schools say First Student has put an interim manager in place.

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