Monday night, the School Committee approved a five year school bus contract, which will only rise three percent over the term of the contract.
Most times, the District signs a three year contract, but the winning bidder (and current contract holder), Local Motion, offered incentives for two additional years, said Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations. State law requires the contract to also get the approval of the Town Council, because it more than three years.
The current contract ends on June 30, 2018. Local Motion and Eastern Bus Co. entered bids, and the former had the most “responsive and responsible bid,” DeLai said.
The current rate for regular school buses currently is $322 per bus per day, DeLai said. The bid from Local Motion would be $358 per bus per day for a three year contract. In a five year contract, the first three years would be $354 per bus per day, and increase 366 per bus in years four and five.
“While there will be a 10 percent increase for next year, it will remain the same for the first three years, with an increase in years four and five,” DeLai said. “Over five years we would only see a 3 percent increase in bus rates.”
With changes planned for busing of students starting in the fall of 2018 to accommodate later start times at the high school and middle school, School Committee members wondered if the district could request certain numbers of buses and routes.
“It is entirely up to the school district: the number of school buses, bus routes and bus stops,” DeLai said.
The change in school start times means the district will be looking at who will be able to ride the bus, and how much the fees will be.
The state only requires busing of students K-6 who live 2 miles or more away from school. Watertown buses students who do not meet that standard for a fee. The fees ($300 per student), however, only cover about 18 percent of the district’s $206,280 busing cost.
In March, the School Committee talked about ways of continuing to transport as many students as possible without a big fee increase. DeLai said that the new contract would add, at most, $20,000 to the total cost, and School officials will look at ways to reduce that amount.
School Committee member Kendra Foley said she hopes the routes and stops will be decided soon so that parents and students can be notified.
The Watertown Schools may be getting a helping hand from a local university. DeLai said the Watertown Schools has been contacted by Northeastern University’s Geospatial Planning Department, which is interested in working with the district to create school bus routes.
“They would work with us on what the best routes would be based on information given to them, including input from parents and students,” DeLai said. “They will get the most students on the buses, the least amount of time on the bus, and include as many students as possible.”