St. James considering new school bus contract

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 20, 2010

By David Vitrano


LUTCHER – The St. James School Board is considering a proposal from First Student to take full control of the district’s bus fleet and transportation operations.

Since 2001, the company has handled bus leasing and maintenance in the parish.

While the company will handle all operations and any new drivers hired will be trained by and be employees of First Student, current bus drivers will remain district employees unless they choose to transition to being First Student employees.

Any driver who chooses to transition will save the district about $1,000 per month according to representative Fred Smith. With the proposed contract coming in at about $3,000 more per month than the current contract, Smith said it would only take three drivers transitioning to cover the cost difference.

According to Superintendent Alonzo Luce, bus drivers leaving their positions for one reason or another would easily make up the difference.

The new contract would cost about $78,000 per month.

The district currently pays First Student about $59,500 per month.

Smith said if the district decides to go with the new plan, all buses in the district’s 44-bus fleet will be equipped with a two-way radio and GPS. Additionally, any replacement buses will have air conditioning, and the company will provide for catastrophic insurance for damages exceeding $100,000.

Luce said choosing the new contract will help stabilize transportation costs as the district has plans to add new buses to the fleet of school buses in the near future.