The Spring Grove school board voted unanimously Monday to hire the Red Lion Bus Co. to transport its 3,500 students next year.

The board approved a seven-year contract with the York County company for about $2.7 million in the first year, said business manager George Ioannidis.

The contract will begin July 1 of this year, replacing Spring Grove's previous contract with Durham School Services.

Cost increase: Ioannidis said Red Lion was more expensive than a couple of the six proposals the school received, including Durham. But the district wasn't comfortable with Durham's contract, and narrowed the scope to Red Lion and Lincoln Bus Lines, based in Hanover.

The choice will mean an increase of about $200,000 for transportation costs, Ioannidis said. But that increase had already been calculated in the budget because Ioannidis said he was unsure what the contract amounts would be.

The administration recommended Red Lion because of its business model and its approach to working with its employees, Ioannidis said. "Red Lion presented a very strong profile," he said.

Company strengths: The company is family-owned, which Ioannidis said was a benefit because the district can quickly contact management if problems arise. But he said the company's regional presence and corporate structure also means the company can take on another 70 routes or so with relative ease.

Ioannidis said the company also had "stellar" referrals for its service.

Red Lion Bus Co., a division of Krapf, will supply the buses and hire drivers for the routes.

Durham had been in labor negotiations with its bus drivers since February, when union members authorized a strike. Some of the union members also voted in March to decertify the union, though some union officials questioned the decertification's validity.

School officials have said the decision to choose another bus company was not related to that issue.

- Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.