EDUCATION

Greencastle-Antrim School Board could vote Thursday to outsource transportation

PAT FRIDGEN

If the Greencastle-Antrim School Board decides to outsource its transportation system, children may find a new bus driver at the wheel. That possibility is something the current bus drivers want the public to be aware of and it’s some thing that could happen shortly after the board meets Thursday, April 5.

Jackie Simmons, a spokesman for the bus crew, says drivers are unanimous in their belief that parents should know that if the outsourcing is approved, it could mean their children would get a new driver and possibly one who doesn’t know the community as well as the current one.

"Parents do not know about this," said Simmons. "They should know they could lose their bus drivers."

She has 26 years experience behind the wheel for G-ASD, and knows of others who have served for 30 or 35 years.

Bids received

The school board directed business manager Richard Lipella to do a cost comparison between outsourcing the transportation system or keeping the service in-house. The school district participates in a buy-back arrangement with Wolfington Body Company, and 14 buses are scheduled to be returned to the company this year in exchange for new. The district usually has an April 1 deadline to sign a new contract, but Wolfington extended it till the board meeting Thursday.

Lipella received bids from five contractors for all of the routes, and two bids for part of the routes. He will present his information for the board to review. If there is no change in operations, no motion regarding the material will be necessary.

"They must vote on the buy-back program with Wolfington, though. We're running out of time," he said.

New buses are delivered in July.

Drivers concerned

Simmons said the drivers were notified in a special meeting at the end of February that the board wanted to advertise for bids. Since then they have received no updates.

"The loyalty has been there and we feel like we've been left to dangle now."

Since there was no guarantee a contractor would hire the school employees back, and the district was not able to explain who they would retain the first year if a contractor took over 14 routes, the drivers wanted to save their jobs. Simmons stressed the worth of people who lived and raised their families in Greencastle and Antrim Township, and were familiar with the children they transported. She hoped the community would contact school board members or attend the 6 p.m. meeting to let them know what they thought about the possibility of outsourcing.

The issue was raised last year. In March, on a 5-4 vote, the district stuck with Wolfington. Lipella said his intial investigations showed one company needed a year to study the G-A system, one needed three months and one would be more expensive. Vicki Chlebowski spoke on behalf of the 24 bus drivers, citing the value of the relationships they developed with the students and their families, which meant a higher level of safety.