Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Real Plan for Better Service that Saves Money

South Dearborn Community School Corporation has an opportunity to overcome transportation challenges and improve student services with the new bus contracts. But that can only happen if the administration and the board are willing to try new things.

Whether the school owns the buses or contractors own the buses, someone in this community will be dishing out a lot of dough just to pay for those buses. Contractor’s, as well as the corporation, will also need to have spare buses on hand and people to maintain those buses.

Forty six buses at a cost of 75 grand a piece works out to 3.45 million dollars. The federal government allows buses to be depreciated over a period of five or nine years. Buses over nine years old really should not be transporting our children. A straight average gives you an annual cost of 690 thousand dollars a year for five years or 383.34 thousand dollars a year for nine years.

The current bus contract pays drivers 53 dollars per day. This works out to a total of 362.5 thousand per year. This figure does not include the payroll taxes contractors must pay. Payroll taxes include social security, unemployment, and worker’s compensation.

With costs this high, why would we put each of these buses on the road for little more than three hours per day?

South Dearborn has a number of problems that are directly linked to shortfalls in transportation.

First, kindergarten children only have transportation one way. This hurts attendance and keeps some of the children who need kindergarten the most out of the classroom.

Second, the school day for seventh through twelfth grade students is too short. This has led to the five period trimester block schedule, which has reduced the quality and quantity of instruction available to SD students in core subjects. Even when the class periods are longer, thirty six weeks of material simply cannot be covered in twenty four weeks. The school day has been shortened because three of the elementary schools are at least 10 miles from the main campus and our buses transport k-12.

Third, because k-12 are on the same bus, some parents are not comfortable allowing their children to ride the bus. This leads to more traffic problems.

Fourth, the distance of the main campus to the homes of many students creates a financial hardship for families who’s children participate in after school programs. This hardship sometimes prevents participation in these programs.

Fifth, with 70% of Dearborn County Residents working outside of the county, picking children up at 5:00 pm is impossible for any parent who gets off work at 4:30 or later and must travel US 50.

Sixth, beginning in January more than two thousand students will be beginning and ending the school day at the same time on the main campus. This will make a bad traffic situation worse.

Other school districts have over come these problems with a staggered school schedule and South Dearborn could do the same. Yes, the buses will have to travel more miles and will use more fuel, but in the long run the improved transportation service will save families time and money. It will also improve the outcomes for many children.

Twelve buses could transport all Junior High Students and High School Extracurricular Students in the morning to classes and practices beginning at 8:00 am. Buses arrive at 7:45 for breakfast.

Twenty-two buses transport the corporation’s elementary school students for classes beginning at 9:00 am. Buses arrive at 8:45 for breakfast.

Eight buses transport High School Students, primarily freshmen and sophomores, to school for classes that begin at 10:00 am. Buses arrive at 9:45 for breakfast.

At noon eight buses transport Kindergarten and preschool children home and eight buses transport Kindergarten and preschool children to school for afternoon classes.

At 3:10 eight buses transport Junior High students not participating in after school activities home.

At 4:10 twenty two buses transport elementary students home.

At 5:10 twelve buses transport High School and Junior High Students participating in after school programs home.

What are the advantages?

First, you only need 27 buses and five of those are spares. This saves 1.425 million dollars up front or 158 grand to 285 grand per year. You also save insurance premiums.

Second, you only need 22 drivers. Paying each of these drivers $11.00 per hour eight hours per day, you save $14,000 a year. This would almost pay for an instructional assistant. But you don’t need 22 drivers eight hours per day. You need eight drivers full time, four drivers 5 ½ hours, four drivers 4 hours and six drivers 3 hours. At $11.00 per hour the total wages would be $237,600. This saves over $124 thousand per year. This is nearly enough to pay three full time teachers.

Third, every child will have transportation to and from kindergarten.

Fourth, children seventh grade through twelfth grade can participate in extracurricular activities even if their parents work out of town or the family doesn’t have a car.

Fifth, a later start to the school day will improve attendance and achievement for Elementary and High School students.

Sixth, Junior and Senior High School students can again have a full year of instruction in core subjects.

Seventh, the hours home after school without adult supervision will be significantly reduced for most students.

Eighth, the traffic problems before and after school at the main campus will be greatly reduced.

Fuel will cost the corporation more with staggered schedules, but in the long run this change would save money for the community at large and improve outcomes for South Dearborn’s children.

No comments: