Franklin Township Schools Dealt a Blow by Bus Bankruptcy
Hated by sleepy children the world over, school buses and their drivers are the unsung heroes of public education. Dutifully toiling through snow and rain, slush and mud, school buses haul loads of young students off to elementary, middle, and high schools across the country every week-morning. For children who are too young to drive (and parents who are too busy to drive), bus companies are a vital lifeline between home and school. But what happens when the school bus link in the chain breaks down?
Atlantic Express Files for Chapter 11
Public schools bear an unfortunate brunt of the financial burden when it comes to recessions, spending restrictions, and layoffs. In fact, today’s public schools are arguably known as much for educating young Americans as they are for suffering through massive budget cuts. It’s common to hear that X or Y school doesn’t have enough money, doesn’t have enough staff, doesn’t have enough supplies. But sometimes, it isn’t the school that suffers from a shortage of funding — it’s the bus company that serves the school. That’s precisely what happened to the Franklin Township School District early this January when its longtime bus carrier, Atlantic Express, filed for bankruptcy.
Atlantic Express’ original petition for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy was filed several months prior, back in November of 2013. The district reportedly became aware of the filing early the following December. However, because the plan approved by the bankruptcy court at that time provided that Atlantic could continue to operate as normal until its ultimate sale in January, there was no particular cause for concern. However, the bus company — and the schools it served — was soon to hit a pothole.
“Not Confident in the Company’s Ability”
On Monday, January 6th, Atlantic Express announced that it was unsure of its ability to provide normal transportation services on that day. That lack of reliability had been realized the day before by School Superintendent Edward Q. Seto, when attorneys, school staff, and bus company employees met to discuss the fate of the sinking carrier. The meeting, which had been scheduled for Thursday the 2nd until the snowstorm forced a postponement, was attended by Atlantic Express representatives, and by the school’s Transportation Supervisor and Board attorney. The latter two attendees briefed Superintendent Seto and Assistant Superintendent for Business John Calavano afterward.
According to an official statement issued by Superintendent Seto on Monday, the meeting did not exactly instill faith in the bus company. “…after that meeting, our attorney and Transportation Supervisor were not confident in the company’s ability to fulfill the obligation of transporting all of the students on the routes assigned to the company,” Seto wrote. “After being briefed on the matter, Mr. Seto and Mr. Calavano concurred with the assessment.”
Children living in Franklin Township may have been happy to wake up on Monday morning and learn that the school was closed pending the transportation issue; but fortunately for the adult world, the matter was resolved by Tuesday the 7th, when the school promptly reopened.
In the close of his statement, Seto wrote, “Currently, the Board attorney is in negotiations with the attorneys for Atlantic Express and in contact with the Bankruptcy Court to facilitate the next steps in this process. It is our hope that we will have a resolution to this matter today.”