Unionville to get bids on outsourcing busing

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Board of Education members say no decision has been made, bids needed to get detailed financial information

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
POCOPSON — Stressing that the final decision had not been made, most members of the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education expressed support for putting the district’s school bus services out to bid for outsourcing in the next couple of weeks, as parents, teachers and district bus drivers pleaded for the board to consider the special role drivers play in the district.

The topic dominated a packed Board of Education meeting at Pocopson Elementary School, Monday night. The issue is reaching a boiling point in the district, as teachers wore buttons to school Monday expressing their support of the bus drivers — putting the potential loss of bus drivers on students’ radar.

Unionville Superintendent of Schools Sharon Parker said after last week’s board work session it became increasingly evident that the rough numbers from a report generated by Transportation Advisory Services weren’t going to be enough to make an informed decision on whether to outsource the district’s school bus fleet and operations.

“The only way to get these figures is to develop these bid specifications,” Parker said. “These bids do not have to be accepted and acted upon.”

Board members said they were sympathetic to calls from parents, teachers and transportation department employees to keep the busing operation in-house, but that they had a responsibility to the greater community to explore all options in the current economic environment.

“I’m pretty sure I would have been one of the people standing up in support of the bus drivers, if I weren’t up here,” board member Holly Mazone said. “There are a lot of people up here who have no idea what you go through,” she told the drivers.

“This decision has not been made,” she said, echoing the statements of virtually all of her colleagues. “I didn’t support doing the bus study, but I see the merits of the study; we can’t make all the decisions without all of the information.”

Parker said that the administration would work on two tracks: one, looking at the cost-savings and impact of outsourcing the bus fleet; a second track will look at improving the efficiency of the existing operation. She stressed that the final decision will not be made solely on the basis of cost, but rather that the intangible benefits of the current set up will be heavily weighed.

She also praised the workers of the transportation department, both for how calmly they’ve handled the looming spectre of their jobs being outsourced and their continued dedication to the district and students.

“I’ve heard loud and clear that you are committed to the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District,” she told the dozens of drivers, mechanics and transportation employees in the audience.

Part of the problem the district and the school board has in making a decision, Parker said, in the unique nature of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. Aside from being the biggest school district in terms of land area in Chester County, it also has the largest number of students being bused to private schools. Pennsylvania state law requires local public school districts to pay for transportation of private and parochial students to their respective schools.

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