St. James Parish’s school bus fleet may be replaced under new proposal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2001


LUTCHER – An alternative to a worn out and expensive bus fleet was presented to the St. James Parish School Board by Laidlaw Education Services at their Jan. 9 meeting. Laidlaw is one of the largest transportation companies in the U.S., supplying some 450,000 buses with repair service to school systems. The proposal given to the school board was for 22 buses in the first year and a total of 30 new buses by the end of the five-year contract. The current school bus drivers would be retained to operate the new vehicles, said Fred Smith of Laidlaw. Terrebone Parish recently hired Laidlaw and has more than 170 new buses operating this year. Smith said Louisiana has the oldest average age of school buses in the country, and many desperately need replacing. If the school board accepts the contract Laidlaw would supply the buses and handle all maintenance repairs on the new and current school system buses. The new buses will be extremely safe, since Laidlaw claims its vehicle safety requirements are higher than both the state and federal DOTD. The new buses would have such safety features as a child search alarm which would sound if the driver exited the bus without making sure all passengers had departed. The buses would not have air conditioning, but only shaded windows, white roofs and sliding windows. Air conditioning is be added as an option, said Smith. The cost for the first year would be $338,148, with a increase each of the next four years. Laidlaw estimated that it could save the school system about $112,424 in that first year. The estimate was based on past expenses and the cost of purchasing new buses and other future expenses. In another matter, continuing on last year’s St. James Parish River Camp success, Elvis Cavalier, director of student programs, informed the board that the students workers were off to Mississippi again to train for their summer leadership positions. Last year the camp hosted around 1,000 students and 40 high school student workers, said Cavalier. This year the worker count has increased to 60, out of over 250 applicants. St. James Parish Community Awareness Emergency Response donated $2,043 to pay for the Mississippi training camp this weekend. Cavalier presented Gerald Falgoust, St. James Parish director of emergency preparedness, with a plaque for the CAER group for its assistance. Also, a non-certified teacher was terminated from the Vacherie Elementary School. The teacher was a seventh- and eighth-grade instructor who was let go for a variety of reasons, said Millie Matherne, administrative director of personnel. Replacements are currently being interviewed. Six students were on the agenda to appeal their superintendent disciplinary hearings, but only four were present. All appeals were conducted in closed session. The board also entered into executive session to discuss the school board suit against A Minority Entity Inc. AME was sued after defaulting on their contract in the early 1990’s. The school system’s maintenance work was contracted to AME under the condition that it would save the school system money. AME was unable to deliver on its promised savings and was taken to court. No action was taken on the case; the session provided a status report, said board president Kenneth Foret. Also during the school board meeting, the board re-appointed Foret as president and Charles Nailor as vice-president of the board for the year.