Eight school districts on the North Shore have been sued by bus companies who claim the districts ceased paying them last year when schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing them into bankruptcy.
The Sea Cliff-based North Shore school district, the East Williston school district, the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district, the Mineola school district, the Roslyn school district, the Herricks school district, the Sewanhaka school district, and the Port Washington school district are among 47 Long Island districts that have been named in breach-of-contract suits by Baumann & Sons Buses Inc. and ACME Bus Corp., both based in Ronkonkoma.
All eight districts have been sued by Baumann, with East Williston, New Hyde Park-Garden City Park, Sewanhaka and Port Washington additionally being sued by ACME. Each suit was filed in federal Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of New York.
Suits from Baumann and ACME filed in December claim that the districts contracted them for the school year beginning July 1, 2019, and ending June 30, 2020.
“On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic,” the complaints filed in each suit read. “On March 16, 2020, the Governor of the State of New York issued an executive order requiring that schools State-wide be closed and students be educated via distance learning, no later than March 18, 2020.”
The complaints said that “on or about March 16, 2020,” the districts suspended the companies’ provisions of transportation services, purportedly under the parties’ agreement, without any further compensation paid to Baumann or ACME. The bus companies claim that their agreements did not give the districts authority to suspend services without payment.
As a result of a lack of payment from the eight districts and 39 others across Long Island, Baumann and ACME said they were “unable to meet [their] on-going financial obligations” and were forced to file for bankruptcy in April.
The damages being sought by Baumann and ACME include the districts’ remaining balances for that year, which they say would become the property of their bankruptcy estates.
Of the eight districts, only the Port Washington school district responded to a request for comment, with Superintendent Michael Hynes saying in an emailed statement that the district was aware of the legal action taken by the bus companies.
“Given that this matter is currently in litigation, the district cannot discuss the specifics of this case,” Hynes said.
The Mineola school district did not respond to a request for comment, but Superintendent Michael Nagler was quoted in Newsday as saying that the district did not pay Baumann because it never received an invoice.
“Once they filed suit, we asked them for an invoice, which we received and paid,” he told the paper.
The two other school districts on the North Shore, Manhasset and Great Neck, were not named in the suits, as neither uses Baumann or ACME for transportation.