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Peru seeks to shrink bus costs

Peru Central School has one of the more extensive bus fleets in the North Country.

Peru Central School has one of the more extensive bus fleets in the North Country. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

PERU — A senior consultant spent two days engaging members of the Peru Central School transportation department, bus mechanics, faculty, parents, support staff, administrators and supervisors.

He gathered an array of comments and suggestions and assembled data, including how the district maintains its fleets, bus mileage, and how bus stops are developed.

The consultant is expected to issue a report in May or early June that may help the district further save money on transportation.

“That will provide the school board with time between June and when bus routes are established at the end of August,” said Interim Superintendent A. Paul Scott. “There will be ample time for the board to make operational some of the suggestions.”

The school district is already anticipating $90,000 in cost savings when two members of the transportation department retire. Their positions will not be filled.

Senior Consultant Chris Andrews is expected to make two types of recommendations. The first will be changes that can be made rapidly and provide the district with increased effectiveness from Sept. 1 forward. The others will take more time and preparation to put in place.

“The senior consultant does anticipate that the district can operate the transportation program more cost effectively next year,” Scott said. “It is possible there could be more cost savings.”

Some of the changes in bussing around the state were fueled by the state Education Department.

For quite some time, rural districts needed to have bus routes planned with total ridership in mind, despite the fact some children do not ride the bus. About a year ago, the state Education Department changed those guidelines, allowing districts to create routes based on actual ridership, with a 10 percent stretch factor built in.

“You need to make sure you have some empty seats in case you need to transfer more students on a given day,” Scott explained. “That is a major change for rural school bussing.”

Scott stressed that there will be plenty of time in June, July and August for school officials to review the analyst's report and for the appropriate individuals to revise bus routing plans for next school year.

“Even during this school year we have at least one less run,” Scott said. “Next year, we are counting on a more substantial increase in efficiency as a result of diminishing enrollment and this comprehensive study.”

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