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February 06, 2014  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Cooperative helps districts save money, time

Walla Walla (Wash.) School District won matching funds from the state to obtain funds for a facility to support a cooperative that serves three school district transportation departments, and it hasn’t cost taxpayers additional tax dollars. The Southeast Washington Transportation Cooperative provides vehicle maintenance at a fraction of the cost of local shops as well as a driver training program that saves districts staff and time.

by Nicole Schlosser - Also by this author

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The substantial savings has enabled the district to add educators in the classrooms, creating smaller group sizes and one-on-one instruction, Wegner says, and has minimized the extra dollars Dixie SD had to spend out of its general fund for transportation.

Membership in the cooperative helps relieve time pressure because of the expediency of repairs and parts availability, Wegner says. “We coordinate our purchases with what they need for their buses so the parts are interchangeable.”

He adds that Olson keeps up to date on all the latest information and compliance issues, which, being a small district, Dixie SD doesn’t have time to do. “He makes sure we [can meet] the safety needs of the students and the buses.”

Providing affordable training
Another savings opportunity the cooperative offers is a state training program to become a school bus driver, training approximately six to 10 drivers each year. The program includes a 20-hour classroom for class B and CDL licenses, behind-the-wheel training, and driving simulated routes. At $35 an hour and a small mileage charge, the price is far lower than the local community college CDL program, which costs $3,000. For example, recent training for two bus drivers cost $1,250.

Wegner says that his district has four drivers taking advantage of the cooperative’s training program annually and that it helps out with staffing costs. Instead of having to hire a trainer in-house or have one come in from time to time, the district is able to save money and manpower, which is especially helpful, since they have a small staff.

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