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202 Board to Consider New Bus Contract

A switch in bus providers could result in significant savings.

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.

Miguel Sanchez March 27, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I truly hope IL Central wins the business. Its the only US-owned provider in the running apparently.
Hurtin Anfrustrated March 27, 2012 at 03:20 PM
"Once the state reimburses the district for a portion of the transportation costs"? Good Luck with that. "Drivers have also built a strong rapport with district students"? Please! The state can't even pay their own bills and still owes District 202 Millions of Dollars! That's why if you haven't heard, there is bunch of layoffs again for this year. Those people got 8 hrs. notice before the last board meeting that they are losing their jobs. Dont worry, District administrators got their well deserved raise despite all the sacrifices the little people working in the district did in hopes of keeping their jobs. It didn't help! I am sure Dr. Harper is working very hard to find more savings in the budget to help maintain his Wall Street Life Style.
mario March 27, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Keep the incumbents, do you people not read the news and see the lawsuits on il central, look it up, sexual harassment, discrimination. Let's continue keeping our kids safe
Lisa S. March 27, 2012 at 08:07 PM
District 202 should look to other local Districts (Woodridge for example) that did just this. They switched to be more 'cost effective' and kids got left at bustops, left on busses, got to school 3 hours late, etc. Search the Patch for more info. Perhaps they should take the bids and use them to negotiate with the provider we have.
Tina March 28, 2012 at 01:39 AM
I am a big fan of savings, however, no dollar amount is worth our kids' safety. All my experiences with First Student have been positive for the past 7 years- that says alot! There are places to save money and places not to save money. I feel this is one of those places where the $ is not the most important consideration.
Ildteacher March 28, 2012 at 03:17 AM
I have nothing but great things to say about Septran. They have taken the time to learn about my son and his disability. They have worked closely with his school and our family to work on our sons extreme needs. We really feel that because of our sons needs they hired a bus assistant that could handle him, his driver also can handle him and knows how to best deal with his needs. Septran has been able to retain the driver and assistant so there would be no transition to new people and thus start over with training them on our sons unique needs. We really hope the district considers the students safety and needs before they start pinching pennies.
Leslie Ann March 28, 2012 at 12:07 PM
All that comes to mind as I read all the District 202 cuts and changes is the saying "A penny wise a dollar foolish". We too are concerned at the bus changes our children love their bus driver and these cuts will affect all of our kids.
Gary Gnatz March 30, 2012 at 02:05 AM
I guess it's time to log those bus numbers who operate so safely ! Safety indeed
Brandon March 30, 2012 at 05:46 PM
As a parent, I know that even the smallest changes in my child's school environment can have a negative effect on their ability to concentrate on learning. I understand the district is trying to same money, but they need to take into account how a major change in bus service will effect our students. Both First Student and Septran have been QUALITY partners in our childrens' education. Why put all of the students and parents through a difficult transition, when the feedback has been so positive for both companies. If either company has not lived up to their contracts, then they should be changed. But to change everything just to save a few bucks would be a mistake. These bus drivers have taken care or our most valuable asset, our children. These are more than bus drivers. They are the first and last contact our children have with the school. Let's not make the mistake of thinking it's just about the money. Safety an well-being of our children, our future, is worth so much more.
Brandon March 30, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Septran IS a US-owned company. One of the main offices is in Aurora, but ALL the buses for the Plainfield Schools are based in Plainfield.

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