Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) officials are seeking input from parents and community members on planned changes to the school district's transportation system. YCS will host a community forum on the topic from 6:30-7:30 p.m. April 1 at the district's administration building at 1885 Packard St., adjacent to Ypsilanti Community High School.
The district is in the process of identifying a new contractor to provide school bus drivers after the YCS board of education decided not to renew its contract with Durham School Services earlier this year. Durham has been providing buses and drivers for YCS since the 2015-2016 school year. The current contract with Durham expires June 30.
Interim YCS Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross says the board and administration have identified three major challenges: late buses, often due to driver shortage; vehicle condition; and poor customer service.
"The buses are old and tend to break down regularly," Zachery-Ross says. Additionally, she says, Durham is having trouble ensuring it has enough drivers to cover all the routes, leading to delays or buses just not showing up.
"There are late buses or no buses, especially on our special needs route," Zachery-Ross says. "We have children in the cold waiting for a long time, and that should not be in that environment waiting for buses."
Additionally, Zachery-Ross says parents have given YCS officials a lot of feedback about a lack of customer service. When parents call Durham, she says, no one answers the phones, and when parents leave a message, no one returns their calls.
"Overall, there's a problem with lack of communication," she says.
Durham currently provides not only drivers but nearly all the district's buses. YCS currently leases five buses as a backup, Zachery-Ross says. However, during its Jan. 28 regular meeting, the board of education approved leasing 20 brand-new regular buses and 10 for special needs students from CH & H Leasing and Fleet Solutions. The new buses feature GPS technology, air conditioning, cameras, and clean diesel. The leasing company will also be in charge of maintenance on the vehicles.
The school district plans to send out a request for proposals (RFP) seeking a new provider for drivers only, with the school district providing its own vehicles. School administration and the board of education already have a rough outline of the RFP ready to go but they're seeking community input before finalizing it.
Potential providers will have about two weeks to respond to the RFP, and then the school board will select "the lowest responsible bidder," says Steve Burgess, YCS director of operations.
Depending on which option the school board chooses, the new plan could save the district as much as $2 million per school year, Zachery-Ross says.
For more information about the transportation forum, email YCS communications coordinator Taryn Willis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of YCS.