The Montgomery County Board of Education had its regular monthly meeting Mon., July 8. Among items brought to the board’s attention was a proposed plan to streamline some of the school system’s busing operations through the establishment of community bus stops.
Assistant Superintendent of Operations Dr. Kevin Lancaster told board members that in-house studies showed the potential for substantial savings by consolidating some individual student bus stops into community stops, where multiple students would board buses at a single stop.
“If we’re able to do that, I think it’s going to be able to show some cost benefits for us for the next school year,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster said doing away with some of the door-to-door bus stops would reduce the travel time and overall length of bus routes, resulting in savings through fuel and payroll. School board members raised some concern regarding the possibility that students could have to walk up to three-tenths of a mile and that the reduction of travel time could impact bus drivers who depend on the pay.
“I will tell you that some of this will be with some pains and some things that we’ll have to work through,” said Lancaster, “but efficiency is something we had to look at and when we’re dealing with spending so much local dollars. It’s something we’ve got to make some hard decisions on.”
In a specific scenario offered as an example, moving to community bus stops on one existing bus route saw a projected savings of about one-fourth the time and about one-third the distance now being covered. Multiplied through the school year, that one route would save over 1,600 miles and more than 110 hours of travel time and payroll expense.
Lancaster also told the board that a move to community bus stops will make it necessary for school administrators to tightly manage transportation to reduce situations that could result in complaints.
“If we have community stops, and not door-to-door, (students) can’t stand inside when it’s pouring down rain – they’ve got to be at a particular stop. It’s going to be imperative that we are on top of our bus drivers if they are not there to drive a bus, that we know the time frames that they’re going to be at each stop. If we don’t, we’re going to receive more parent complaints, you are going to receive more parent complaints.”
Lancaster continues to work with Transportation Director Russ Brown and Maintenance Director Bill Mingin to draw up plans for community bus stops, with the hope that the plan can be implemented by the start of the coming school year. Administrators discussed options for notifying parents and are likely to publicize any changes through a combination of personal letters, calls through the AlertNow system, and releases through the local media.
WMTG will rebroadcast the Board of Education meeting in its entirety tonight at 9:00 p.m. The program can be heard at 88.1 FM in Mount Gilead, online from a link at http://www.wmtg.org, and with the TuneIn mobile app.