Two weeks after flirting with the idea of getting rid of buses altogether for elementary students, the District 97 school board voted unanimously, April 24 during a regular board meeting, for a contract extension with its current transportation vendor, Bellwood-based Lakeview Bus Service.
The two-year contract extension with Lakeview is for transporting regular and special education students in the district, and represents a 3.5 percent increase over what was paid in the 2017-18 school year for regular and special education bus services.
Last month, the school district mulled the possibility of implementing significant changes to bus services, including axing transportation altogether for elementary school students or making parents pay for the service — ideas that outraged many parents who rely on the buses to take their children to and from school.
School board members said the consideration was prompted by their attempts to save taxpayers money. A report by Edulog Consulting, an education transportation consulting firm that the board tapped to conduct an audit, claimed that the district’s transportation costs could be reduced by at least half if the buses for elementary school students were eliminated.
According to Alicia Evans, the district’s outgoing assistant superintendent for finance and operations, the district has spent $2 million over the last four years on regular bus service. Throughout that time, the district has contracted with Bellwood-based Lakeview Bus Company.
This year, the cost of the service increased by nearly 30 percent, going from $405,315 in 2017 to $522,386 in 2018. In each of the two years prior to 2017, the costs averaged $537,141.
But after opening up the bidding process to different bus companies, district officials discovered that the cost savings proposed by Edulog were not realistic.
Two companies put forth bids, Lakeview and North American. The lowest regular education bid was 20 percent higher than the 2017-18 rates and the lowest special education bid was 3.5 percent higher than last school year’s rates, prompting D97 officials to reject both companies’ bids in favor of extending Lakeview’s current contract.