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St. Ignatius school district finds new bus company

ST. IGNATIUS – The St. Ignatius School District has chosen a new bus company after methamphetamines were found in the buses belonging to the owner of the old company.

Superintendent Jason Sargent announced to parents last week that bus routes will resume as usual when the school starts back up from summer break later this month. 

“We are working out the details of the contract and will have more information about the drivers soon, but the bus routes and times will remain like they were last year,” he said.

The school board chose Jeff Smyth’s proposal to run the school’s eight routes based on bids. On Tuesday, the board met to approve his contract. The results from the vote weren’t available at press time on Monday, but Sargent said it was likely that Smyth will be awarded the five-year contract and will provide the buses. “They won’t be the same buses from the last company,” Sargent said.

The superintendent said drug-testing procedures for the bus company’s owner and employees will be left to the Department of Transportation as per their licensing regulations. The bus company owner hires the drivers. 

The school’s bus barn has been cleaned. “It was taken down to the skeleton of the building with the insulation removed,” he said. “The building was then cleaned and certified.”    

Back in May, the owner of the former school bus company, Scott Johnson, 54, was arrested for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Narcotics detectives with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office conducted a months-long investigation prior to the arrest. Johnson pled not guilty to possession of and distribution of dangerous drugs and endangering the welfare of children. His trial is set for Nov. 26.   

Johnson’s contract with the school was revoked. The school quickly started working to clean the bus barn and find a new company before school started.  

Sargent said the school thought about running the buses themselves, but to afford the cost, the school would have to run a permissive levy for bus deprecation - about $200,000 to $300,000 to get buses and everything else needed.

“We decided not to put that on the taxpayers,” he said. “Instead, we hope they choose to vote for the bond we want to run for school improvements including a new roof for about the same amount. We’ve tried to run a bond for $280,000 per year for repairs twice now and it has failed. We will see what happens this time around.”

On Aug. 29, when school starts back up, children should be at the bus stops five minutes earlier than usual for the first few days. Information about specific bus routes is available at the school by calling the secretary.

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