TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Student Transportation of America (STA) has won a new contract to provide transportation services to the Morongo Unified School District beginning Aug. 1.

The 1,400-square-mile district is located in the southernmost part of the Mojave Desert, between Joshua Tree National Park and the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base.

The five-year contract, valued at $3.7 million annually, includes renewal options and a public-private partnership for the use of two district-owned facilities, along with the district providing the fuel.

STA, which is a subsidiary of Student Transportation Inc., will provide 50 regular route buses, six dedicated activity buses and spare vehicles. A new feature of the contract is that the fleet will be air-conditioned and will come with three-point seat belts. Also, a new four-camera surveillance system will be installed on each vehicle.

"Morongo Unified School District was looking to improve their transportation system while seeking a new, modernized fleet with advanced technologies as well as on-board air-conditioning for the first time," said Don Kissell, STA's senior vice president of operations in the western region. "The district realized a total cost increase; however, in the long term the district, parents and students will all benefit from the new solutions that we will be providing.”

STA’s buses will enable parents to use the SafeStop school bus tracking app. Additional features of the new fleet include GPS tracking systems, two-way radios and Child Check-Mate systems.

Company officials said that STA was able to suggest various cost-saving measures to Morongo Unified School District, including streamlining the roles in staffing and converting to more cost-efficient vehicles for some of the district’s rural routes, which often have lower ridership numbers.

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