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Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN

Shelby County School Board outsources bus services in special-called meeting

Shelby County school board members outsourced its bus services and approved new transportation software at a special-called meeting Tuesday.

It also gave a four-year transportation contract to Durham School Services to transport an estimated 117,000 students.

Shelby County School district expects to save $3.8 million from outsourcing transportation, according to its budget.  The district will be laying off all of its transportation employees.

Those employees expressed their concerns during public meeting in March.

In the four-year transportation contract with Durham, current Shelby County Schools bus drivers will have first choice of open positions. Employees are expected to begin meeting with Durham officials beginning on Wednesday. Drivers are expected to earn more money as Durham employees, administrators said.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said the district’s goal is to not replicate the transportations problems that the district experienced at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.

Several days into the school year, parents and students complained to the district that some bus routes were inconvenient and other buses were too crowded, according to August 2013 media reports from WREG and Local 24 ABC, .

Durham is also expected to purchase the district’s  fleet of buses for $5.2 million.   There will be 1,300 bus routes in the upcoming school year.  The fleet of buses expected to be used will be no more than seven years old and equipped with air-conditioning and GPS trackers.

Board member Teresa Jones had several questions about whether the district had been monitoring the quality of services that Durham School Services has provided previously.

“I know they can provide the service, but it’s the quality that I’m questioning,” Jones said.

In 5 -to -1 vote, board approves transportation contract with Durham.   Jones was sole dissenting vote.

“I can’t support it today. I thought we had more time,”  Jones said.

Hopson asked members of his administrative team to draft a report that answers Jones’ questions.

Board chairman Kevin Woods said the board didn’t have the option to delay making a decision on Tuesday.

“A vendor must be selected today,” Woods said.  When he asked school officials what would happen if a decision was not made, officials said school wouldn’t start on time.

The board also approved a contract with Education Logistics, Inc. , a company that produces software that allows school officials to manually change bus routes to increase the efficiency and punctuality of bus routes.

“Right now we’re mapping where all students reside and with a highly mobile population our current software doesn’t allow for us to manually change arrival and stop times,” said Hitesh Haria, who is the chief of business operations.

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at tcheshier@chalkbeat.org and (901) 730-4013.

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