Plainfield School District 202 will decide next month on a new bus contract, which may mean changing transportation providers.
As required by law, the district sought bids for its bus services, and the board must accept the lowest and most qualified bidder. Bids were requested in January for both its regular and special education busing needs.
When the board considers buses for the district's special education students, it can weigh such tangibles as safety, comfort, stability of service and ability to handle special needs or disabled students more than just the price of the service, said John Prince, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and operations.
Bus provider Illinois Central, based in Channahon, offered the lowest bid at about $27.1 million for three years for regular education students and about $15.7 million for three years for special education students.
Illinois Central's bid was lower than both of the district’s current providers, Prince said.
The district has used First Student of Naperville for its regular education students for about 15 years. The company's bid was about $28.6 million for three years.
For special education students, the district has contracted with Septran, based in Aurora, for the last five years. Septran's bid was about $16 million for three years.
Once the state reimburses the district for a portion of the transportation costs, the district would pay about $228,000 more per year to continue with its current provider for regular education and about $24,000 more per year to continue with Septran for special education students, Prince said.
The state reimburses the district at about 80 percent of transportation costs for special education students and about 50 percent of transportation costs for regular education students.
Bus drivers Chris Hadamik and Sally Vance urged the school board to continue with First Student, describing the business as a reputable company with a good safety history. They said current First Student drivers have also built a strong rapport with district students.
Supt. John Harper said that with the district constantly tightening its belt, the administration and school board takes any potential savings very seriously.
“That savings could translate into jobs for teachers, aides, etc.,” he said. “But the safety of our kids will always remain paramount.”
The district is requiring that bus companies and management have a strong safety record, a history of working with school districts with more than 10,000 students, and that buses are newer models with special equipment such as GPS units and video cameras.
The district will enter into a three-year bus contract, which can be extended for an additional two years.
District administrators are likely to make a bus contract recommendation to the board at its April 9 meeting.