The District 200 school board is poised to change transportation providers. The board is expected to vote to replace its current provider, Grand Prairie Transportation, with Hopewell Services, a division of First Student, at a regular meeting on Sept. 24.
During a Committee of the Whole meeting on Sept. 10, Carolyn Gust, the district’s purchasing and transportation director, told board members that the district could save roughly $65,000 in the first year. Grand Prairie’s contract expired on June 30.
Grand Prairie’s annual bid cost was $1,007,503 to service four in-district routes and 13 off-site routes — an increase of 2.5 percent over their FY 2019-20 contract.
“Over the summer, I reached out to other districts to compare renewal rates,” Gust told board members on Sept. 10. “Our renewal rate requested by Grand Prairie was on the low end, but because of the economic situation and knowing transportation providers were out there looking for business, and we hadn’t gone out to bid in a while, I decided to go out to bid and see if we could save any money over our contract.”
Hopewell’s bid was $942,916. The district is expected to enter a three-year contract with Hopewell that Gust said includes annual increases that are around $266,000 lower than Grand Prairie’s bid, or a savings of nearly $500,000 over the life of the contract.
Currently, Grand Prairie transports 11 Oak Park and River Forest High School students to seven off-site schools. If the district switches to Hopewell Services, the company will transport those students for a cost of $343,721 for the 2020-21 school year.
More special education students who were identified for on-site learning may return to in-person instruction in early October. Gust said that, if that happens, the annual cost would increase by $46,340 for the school year.
The state reimburses 80 percent of the district’s special education transportation costs.
Gust said that if students in the school’s general population eventually return to campus later in the year, Hopewell will include the additional routes at the original bid price.
Gust said that while Hopewell was the lowest bidder, she’s worked with the company in the past at another school district she worked at “and they did a fantastic job for us.”
She added that Hopewell will be disinfecting each vehicle on a monthly basis with an anti-microbial disinfectant that coats surfaces and eliminates the COVID-19 virus on contact. In addition, buses will be sprayed daily with a regular use disinfectant “before the route, throughout the route and at the end of the route.”
Drivers are required to have their temperature taken and self-certify that they are COVID-19 symptom-free before they can board the vehicle. Students are required to show that they’ve self-certified that they are symptom-free through the district’s Skyward student app.
Gust said that Hopewell is prepared to start transportation services this month.