A Not-so-Quick Update on Proposed Transportation Cuts

On April 20th, the ORSB passed their FY2010 budget. Of major note, they eliminated the originally proposed cuts of 6 TAs and transportation for a.m. preschool riders and the alternative school students. We actively pursued these reinstatements as discussed here and here and here. These were major victories for our children and our schools, but it left questions in our minds.

Just 3 business days prior, we questioned the transportation line item for contracted services (72710 312). The impact of the proposed cuts was not provided but the savings were stated to yield $107,489 (you may recall that the total savings for eliminating all students in the 1 mile walk zone was roughly $300K a few years ago); however the proposed new amount actually reflected an increase of $38,138. The initial explanation provided was that, to quote Ms. Gagliano, “it went up and then it went down.”

On April 15th, we submitted the questions listed at the end of this post to the ORSB and administration. To date, we have yet to receive a response. Instead, when it came time to approve the budget, funding suddenly became available to reinstate these transportation services, just as it did last year when they quickly scrapped their “bustodian” plan (proposed by the administration and highly scrutinized by the public) in favor of full reinstatement via contracted services.

Once again, the school administration failed to fully consider the impact the proposed transportation cuts would have on the students directly affected by them. While the explanation (to increase instructional time) for cutting am pre-school transportation was fairly valid, there was no real explanation for the alternative school transportation cuts except for Dr. Bailey stating that they are not required to provide transportation – only instruction. Mr. Green stated that the mandatory alternative school transportation was originally implemented in order to prevent co-mingling of those students with the general school population. No solution for preventing this from occurring was offered if they had implemented this particular cut.

When funding was suddenly available, instructional time, along with all of the other reasoning for the cuts became non-issues.

Questions were asked and were not answered. We will continue to hold this administration accountable when they make decisions that directly impact the safety of our children.

Unanswered Questions

What would be the consequences of the removal of AM preschool and full alternative school transportation?
Would students have a safe way to get to school?
Would there be increased participation by parents?
Were the parents/guardians of entering pre-school students questioned about their transportation needs?
Could cutting mandatory transportation for Alternative students pose an unnecessary safety risk to other HS students?
Will this deter our most vulnerable children from participating in a program designed specifically for them (the preschool)?
How will violent offenders be prevented from accessing the main campuses?”
Some of the causes of the contracted services portion of the transportation budget (line item 72710 312) to go up this line item appear to be, in part:

1. A 5% increase in the overall contract cost with First Student (increase of $45,837)
2. A large miscalculation by First Student on the actual cost of bus transportation to be provided to Oak Ridge Schools as described in the RFP (increase of how much?)
3. Removal of AM preschool transportation and alternative school transportation.

Could you list any other factors that affect the contracted services portion (line item 72710 312, only) of the transportation budget, please?
1. My understanding was that First Student could increase the price of contracted services by a total of 5% over the first 5 years of the contract. It appears that they have chosen to increase to the full 5% in the second year of the contract, is that correct? Does that also mean that the price for contracted services will not go up for the next 3 years? A 5% increase over last year’s contract would mean an increase of $45,837.

2. I am concerned about the large miscalculation by First Student. After looking at the proposals that were submitted to the Oak Ridge Schools administration department, I would agree that First Student had the most thorough and detailed proposal. However, a large part of the decision on which company to use was determined by the proposed price. How does this correction make their proposal compare to the other two companies’ proposals? It would be helpful to know how this new figure (contracted services from First Student) works out for the cost per bus per day. I would also like to know how many buses are used in this calculation and how many school days. Days that are not shared by all schools should have a lower cost since fewer buses are used.

3. When the Transportation Committee met last year, we predicted that the number of students riding the bus would go up. I believe that was one of the figures that justified the cost of contracting transportation services. I would like to know what the ridership numbers are so far this year. Based on the increased number of cars at the elementary school this year, I suspect that the ridership has, in fact, gone down.

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