Court orders bus company to restore cut Elizabeth Forward routes
A judge has ordered Pennsylvania Coach Lines to continue driving Elizabeth Forward students to school on routes the bus company tried to cut.
On Monday, Pennsylvania Coach Lines announced it could no longer pick up students on three routes of the district’s 26 routes because of a shortage of drivers. The announcement affected about 350 Elizabeth Forward students.
The company has been driving students to school under court order despite a protracted contract dispute with the district.
Pennsylvania Coach Lines President David Sunstein said Monday he believes cutting the routes did not violate the court order, because his company has been working to the best of its abilities to transport students.
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward did not agree. On Tuesday, she ordered the bus company to restore the routes, according to an announcement posted on the district’s website.
A mediation session between the district and Pennsylvania Coach has been scheduled for Sunday afternoon, according to a statement from the company.
The dispute between the district and Pennsylvania Coach Lines started in August. The district said the bus company was violating its contract by refusing to transport students. The bus company said they had no contract with the district.
A previous contract between Pennsylvania Coach Lines and Elizabeth Forward expired in June. The school board voted last October to extend that deal through June 2023.
However, Sunstein said his company and the school district had never come to an agreement on the extended deal, and that any contract approved by the board didn’t exist.
Elizabeth Forward delayed the start of school by several days as negotiations failed.
Students were granted a temporary reprieve when Ward ordered PA Coach to transport students until Sept. 13. Last week, Ward extended that order, telling PA Coach to continue driving students indefinitely.
Sunstein said the district is offering a one-year contract, but he wants a longer deal to justify the cost of hiring new drivers and buying more buses.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .