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June 22, 2010  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Accentuating the positive

Two school bus operations have been able to secure funding for bus replacements and have managed to expand their transportation service in spite of the current cuts that are being made in pupil transportation.

by Thomas McMahon - Also by this author


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There’s good news, and there’s bad news.

First, the bad: A recent study by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) found that 38 percent of school districts plan to make transportation cuts next school year. That’s nearly double what the association found for the current school year, 20 percent.

The AASA report also determined that more districts will be laying off teachers and support staff next year.

This may not be much of a surprise to those of you who are already experiencing these types of cuts at your own operations. But I’m not going to dwell on that topic here. You can read more about it here.

For now, let’s focus on some good news that we’ve come across lately.

Finding funding

In Ohio, officials at Columbus City Schools said that the district was very close to replacing half of its school bus fleet.

The Columbus Dispatch reported in April that the district’s board of education approved the purchase of 15 65-passenger buses for $1.22 million.

The district bought the IC Bus units through Center City International, which offered a 10-year engine warranty.

Better yet, 75 percent of the cost was covered by a state grant. The district’s share was about $302,000, and the rest was funded by a federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant.

Steve Vargo, Columbus City Schools’ chief operating officer, told The Columbus Dispatch in April that with this order, the district had purchased a total of 261 buses and was 11 away from replacing half of its fleet.

Vargo said that good prices, efficient purchasing and grants facilitated the bus replacements, and he said he believed that the district would be able to purchase additional new buses to reach the half-fleet mark.

In January, $1.14 million was approved for the purchase of six hybrid school buses, with the state picking up $279,500 of the tab. The $1.14 million was part of a $164-million bond issue approved in 2008 that is intended for, among other expenditures, bus purchases.

Expanding service

While many school districts across the nation have had to resort to cutting bus routes, a Minnesota district came up with a proposal to actually increase its transportation service.

At Independent School District (ISD) 196 in Rosemount, Coordinator of Transportation Randy Dukek recently presented to the school board a plan that would offer transportation for a fee to students who aren’t currently eligible for service.

Interestingly, the district already goes beyond what Minnesota mandates. While state law requires districts to transport all students who live outside a two-mile radius of their school, ISD 196 has been providing free transportation for elementary students who live more than half a mile from school and secondary students who live more than one mile from school.

Under the new plan, students inside those boundaries could pay $250 per year (or $125 for students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals) to ride the bus. Officials said that the fees would allow the district to recoup the cost of the extra service.

At press time, the school board was scheduled to take action on the proposal at a meeting in May.                                         


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