Upper Merion considers outsourcing school buses

UPPER MERION — The Upper Merion school board will consider hiring independent subcontractors to bus students to and from school, a school board official confirmed Wednesday.

The board decided Tuesday night to accept bids from interested parties. The outsourcing could help reduce district operating costs, officials said.

“We voted to get out the Request for Proposal (RFP) from bus districts,” said board member Joan Kellett. “I think that the whole issue of outsourcing, you’ll see, is contagious. Many districts have done this for years. Norristown does this for local (bus) runs.”

Kellett declined to offer her opinion, because she will have to vote on it soon.

The Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU), in its 2011 costs-savings analysis of school districts, recommended outsourcing bus services to shore up savings on the whole fleet.

Talks of outsourcing come on the heels of the board’s negotiations with the bus drivers’ union. Bus drivers are currently working without a contract.

A longtime driver who asked not to be identified called the decision “nerve racking.”

“One thing I’m really confused about is they have this sign at the high school that is saying that they are hiring bus drivers. They’re very contradicting in what they’re doing and what they’re saying.”

According to the source, there are nearly 60 bus drivers for the Upper Merion Area School District.

“We care,” she said. “The (board) is willing to give that up instead of, it seems, working with the transportation department and the drivers.

“We have a pretty good record, and to me, it’s kind of unsettling that they would be willing to possibly jeopardize that by bringing in an outside company that doesn’t have any stake in the district.”

Another meeting is planned for 7 p.m. July 18 to further discuss outsourcing of the transportation department. Subcontractors are expected to present proposals to the board.

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