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Frustrated Penn Hills parents to meet with DeLuca over busing concerns

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 3:18 p.m.

A group of parents whose children attend Oakland Catholic and Central Catholic high schools will meet with state Rep. Tony DeLuca on Friday to discuss concerns over transportation in the Penn Hills School District.

“The buses aren't showing,” said parent Kristen McKeag, whose daughter attends Oakland Catholic. “When they do arrive, they're either coming half an hour early, or coming way late.”

McKeag said her daughter, 14, was on the bus headed home recently, and when the driver made a wrong turn, “they just decided to drop her off at the other end of the neighborhood. She's 14 and a freshman, but I make sure someone is there to pick her up all the time because she's the only Oakland Catholic student in the neighborhood.”

Several complaints leveled at Cincinnati-based First Student have come from parents whose students are bused to schools outside the district. School district and First Student officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

DeLuca, a Penn Hills Democrat, will meet the parents at his office on Saltsburg Road. Parents say they pressed to meet with DeLuca after failing to get adequate responses from First Student and the school district.

“I called First Student this morning, and they hung up on me,” McKeag said. “I try to call the school district, and I can never get through to anyone.”

Parent Greg Hatfield, whose son attends St. John the Baptist School in Plum, said he has had similar issues.

“The lady who drives my son's bus, she's very nice, she's punctual, but when she takes the day off, it's like there's no backup plan,” Hatfield said. “We could tell when she was off; there was a major change in the level of service.”

Parents' concerns may turn out to be short-lived: earlier this week, the school board voted to advertise to solicit bids for a new transportation contractor.

School officials have fielded regular complaints about First Student bus service since the company was hired in 2011, ranging from buses running 45 minutes behind schedule to missed pickups.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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