Kenai Peninsula Borough School District bus routes and school start times may change for the 2017-2018 school year.
Administrators are seeking contracts with transportation companies that may result in cutting five to six busses that run in the Anchor Point and Homer areas.
The current contract with First Student expires at the end of the next school year, and the school district will issue a Board of Education-approved Request For Proposal, or RFP, as soon as possible.
“It is a fiscally prudent practice to issue an RFP every five years or so to try and attract quality bussing vendors at the best price available,” said Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones.
The school district contracts 56 regular education, and 20 special education busses every day, Jones said.
Right now the cost per regular education bus is nearly $94,000 annually.
That breaks down to $552.70 per day, Jones said. The total transportation budget for the 2016 fiscal year is more than $8 million.
The school district has been allocated transportation funding for at least the past decade through the pupil transportation grant program, which covered the school district’s costs for the current school year, according to the Department of Early Education and Development’s list of grants given to each of the state’s 54 public school districts.
“The amount of money that could potentially be saved depends on the number of buses that could be reduced on a daily basis,” Jones said. “…If we are able to reduce the number of buses that we use on a daily basis, then we are able to reduce the amount of money that we have to pay to transport students.”
There are roughly 1,400 students in the attendance areas that may see some effects of potential changes, Jones said. On average, 224 students are transported before school, and 365 after school, he said.
The final RFP will include two options, Jones said.
One proposal would result in different start times at some of the schools in the attendance areas, which has the potential to reduce costs because of how transportation vehicles are contracted, Jones said. Each bus is contracted on a per-day basis, he said.
Right now, routes in the Southern Kenai Peninsula are on a one-tier system, which means one bus delivers only one load of students.
Homer High School and Paul Banks Elementary both start at 8:30 a.m., so two busses are contracted to drop students off at that time, Jones said. If the start times were staggered, only one bus would be needed in the morning, he said. The driver could drop students off at one school, then turn around and pick up a second load, which is referred to as a two-tier system.
“The district only pays for one bus per day in that scenario,” Jones said.
This could save roughly $500,000 in transportation costs annually.
Jones said the school district is expecting cuts in funding from the state, and being charged higher rates for transportation in the near future.
Administrators are also expecting returned contract proposals to be “substantially higher” than what is being paid currently, Jones said. He said administration consulted with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District and Anchorage School District, which all reported an average increase of 18 percent in transportation costs this year.
“The district is putting the RFP out to all companies in the student transportation business and hopes to receive multiple responses,” Jones said.
The request will go out to around 15 companies, Jones said, and will be posted online.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org