Paul Ramsey, energy education specialist, presented the situation to the Cleveland School Board earlier this week. Board members granted permission for Ramsey to request bids for a new bus. The window for bids closed today at 10 a.m.
An emergency clause in the city school’s funding policy allowed for the short bid window. Emergencies are any situations found to be detrimental to the proper running of the school system.
According to Ramsey, the need for a spare special needs bus has been acutely felt.
“We have been able to make do, but it has become such a hardship lately. There was one day where two buses were out,” Ramsey said. “We are trying to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money. ... You don’t go out and pay $50,000 unless you really need it.”
There are currently eight special needs routes and the same number of buses. The Office of Maintenance and Transportation has tried to make do, said Ramsey. Several instances since school opened in August have brought the issue to a head.
“You constantly have to maintain school buses. When one bus is in the shop, then you need another one,” Ramsey said. “If one were to break down at 4 p.m., then it may be impossible to get parts for the bus that day.”
Several times parents were called the night before by school officials. They were asked if they could find transportation for their children. Other instances found bus drivers taking extended routes or making double runs. Both are difficult on drivers, due to their tight schedules. Late arrivals disrupted the students’ education.
“The parents have been great,” Ramsey said.
Transportation officials and board members will give consideration to buses from 2009 and onward. Buses from the past four years should meet the tight requirements given by the state. Money from the half cent sale’s tax in the capital project fund will be used to cover the costs.
Multiple schedules affect the daily routes. Students from pre-K through high school utilize the school system’s bus service. Schedules differ from full-day to half-day increments. Half-day sessions split between morning and afternoon. Routes are in place throughout the day to provide for the students’ transportation.
As the student population has increased in the school system, so have demands on school transportation.
“We have seen a lot of growth in the last five years. We generally have added about 100 students between the time school ends and begins again. A portion of these students do have special needs,” Ramsey said.
Additional strains are seen as more parents place their children on buses.
“Research has shown school bus transportation is the safest form of transportation out there,” Ramsey said. “I guess when people see a big, yellow bus they are generally more careful.”
All applicable bids will be entertained by Ramsey, transportation officials and the school board. The spare bus should be added to the yellow fleet before Christmas break.