Districts eye consolidated school busing plan

The Washtenaw Intermediate School District has begun looking at a model to consolidate transportation around the county. Teams representing local school districts will carry out the design work with help from consultants, according to information from the WISD.

Team members are charged with designing a more efficient student busing model that will generate an 18 to 25 percent cost savings by standardizing buses and fuel, centralizing overhead, optimizing bus routes and looking at budgets for compensation and benefits.

“It will be a multi-step process,” explained WISD Superintendent Dr. William C. Miller. “First we’ll determine our needs and design a model to meet those needs. Then the local school districts will decide if the model can be adapted internally or if it will need to be sent out for a bid.”

Consultants from the Xavier Leadership Center in Ohio and Transportation Strategies of Indiana will facilitate the teams.

Design of the WISD program will be based on countywide participation but each district will determine the extent of its participation. The Ann Arbor Public Schools is currently accepting requests for proposals for pupil transportation services for the 1020-11 fiscal year. The bid opening date is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 12 at 10 a.m.

Miller noted that Washtenaw County districts already share services in more than 87 different areas, including shared services for substitute teachers which is operated by the Professional Educational Services Group.

More shared services are being considered, Miller confirmed. There is a pilot project underway in the Ypsilanti and Lincoln districts – and soon in Willow Run – to look at sharing central office and administrative services. WISD already processes payroll for the Chelsea and Manchester school districts and provides full accounting services for New Beginnings and Washtenaw Technical Middle College public school academies and the alternative education program COPE.

“To be fiscally responsible, our schools must look at all possibilities,” Miller said, noting that the possibilities could be by district, region or county. “Each local district’s ultimate responsibility is teaching and learning. And, our goal is to help them manage scarce resources in ways that maximize programming and opportunities for students.”

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