As Dallas Independent School District prepares to take technology proposals from vendors to its school board this month, three other local school districts that formed a transportation cooperative in light of the dissolution of school bus provider Dallas County Schools (DCS), will soon select a new contractor for the coming school year.
Cedar Hill ISD, DeSoto ISD and Lancaster ISD formed the Southern Dallas County Transportation Cooperative earlier this year, to combine school bus services. David Scott, director of purchasing for DeSoto ISD, said shared services under an inter-local agreement made the most sense, because the three cities are situated within a 10-mile radius of each other.
“We thought, this way we can maybe get some benefits of economies of scale,” he told School Transportation News on Thursday, one day before proposals from would-be school bus contractors were due.
While the three school districts will take ownership of their own fleets from DCS—about 50 school buses for each—and individual bus depots, they requested competitive sealed bids from contractors to manage the general and special education operations, plus vehicle maintenance for the 2018-2019 school year, with a cooperative option to renew the contract for four additional one-year terms.
The contractor would also be responsible for routing, as well as hiring drivers, training drivers and mechanics, and developing safety programs.
An addendum to the bid clarifies that the maximum bus age is 10 years.
Contractors submitted implementation plans that detailed inspection processes for vehicles, facilities and equipment; management and oversight of routes and operating efficiencies; student discipline; routing and/or bell schedule changes; annual savings to the member districts; recruitment, if necessary, of management and supervisory personnel; selection, any necessary training and employment of drivers; and employee orientation, especially to the cooperatives routes and schedules.
Scott added that the three districts plan to finalize their recommendation by April 9, in time for a Board of Trustees meeting. Preference will not be solely based on price,m but also take into consideration the lowest cost per mile, contractor reputation, references and compliance with criminal background checks.
He said the board could approve the award that same day and delay until the next meeting on April 23. Either way, Scott said a final decision must be made by April 30.
“(The winning contractor) will have a lot of things to do, too,” he explained. “They will have to negotiate with existing employees, hire enough drivers and put on job fairs, figure out the routes we’ll need.”
Complicating routing in DeSoto’s case, Scott said the district is in the process of building a new elementary school, which will require changing student attendance zones.
Another wrinkle is that the school districts agreed to hire any DCS employee with at least 10 years vested in the Texas Retirement System pension. So the cooperative could eventually be made up of a mixture of district-employed drivers, mechanics, clerks and those who are employed by the contractor.
“It’s a complex situation, but we can handle it,” said Scott.
Marcy Moran, executive director of financial services and purchasing for Lancaster ISD, told STN that the goal is to get all three school boards to vote on the bids concurrently, for a unanimous decision on the winning contractor.
All three school districts start the 2018-19 school year on Aug. 20.