PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (ECYS) Silveria Jacobs announced the sudden suspension of the public tender “School Bus Transportation Service St. Maarten” until further notice.
On Wednesday during the Council of Ministers’ executive live press briefing, the Minister said this was decided to ensure proper communication and collaboration between the ECYS Ministry, the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) and the School Bus Owners Association to be able to move forward in the best interest of all concerned with the regulation of the school bussing service.
Discussions started since October 2015 to regulate the school bus system and the Minister maintains that it needs to be regulated. This week, the cabinet will be meeting with the TEATT Ministry to make a joint plan on how to move forward with the proposed plans.
Jacobs also said that these improvements had been approved by the Ministry in 2015 to provide a better busing service, such as public bidding in accordance with the National Accountability Ordinance to allow for fair, open and transparent awarding of service level contracts for said service, with the possibility to sub-contract to current and new operators.
Government wants a GPS System and electronic school-ID passes for anyone other than those authorised to use the bus to have access to the bus, track the whereabouts of the buses, and allow for parents and government to track students on the bus in the interest of compulsory education.
Friday last, the School Bus Owners Association who is responsible for 31 school bus owners, had given Government an ultimatum to retract its intended policy by yesterday, Wednesday, or face a court injunction by the Association’s lawyer.Approximately 2,000-plus students make use of this service on a daily basis.
Government claims that due to increasing cost to the amount of NAf. 5.4 million on an annual basis and violent activities on school buses, the Ministry had to re-evaluate the bussing system to ensure a more effective, efficient and sustainable system for students that also is in compliance with all the relevant ordinances and policies.
The association is still in discussion with Government and has contracted lawyer Cindy Marcia for legal counsel in the matter.
Source: The Daily Herald Govt. heading back to drawing board on school bus regulation