The Shaler Area school board Wednesday chose a new company to transport its students next school year, picking ABC Transit, which also transports students in the North Hills and Fox Chapel Area districts.
The board had sought bids, in part to save money, after the district’s contract with First Student ends June 30.
Last week, drivers with the district’s current service, First Student, filled the conference room at Shaler Area Middle School to ask the school board to continue to use the company, which has been transporting Shaler Area students for 50 years.
Sherri Ludwig, director of business affairs, said at the time that the two lowest bids the district received were substantially less than First Student.
She also noted that the average age of First Student’s buses is 7 years old and that costs the district money. “As the vehicles get older, the less money we get back from the state in subsidies,” she said.
Assistant superintendent Bryan O’Black noted that district enrollment is declining and one of the administration’s goals is to cut costs by moving from First Student’s 84-passenger buses to more cost-efficient 72-passenger buses.
Many of the 84-passenger buses are not full on their runs, Ms. Ludwig noted.
Mike Ceoffe, president of Teamsters Local Union 249, which represents First Student drivers, told the board that the drivers are dedicated to following union rules, safety guidelines, state mandates and the district’s protocols. They must regularly pass alcohol and drug tests as well as background checks, as mandated by the Teamsters’ contract with First Student.
But what’s most important, Mr. Ceoffe said, are the relationships the drivers have with Shaler Area students because they often are retirees who live in the district and are driving buses to supplement their pensions. So, they often know and sometimes are related to the students they drive and are very familiar with the routes, he said. “It’s something you can’t put a dollar amount to,” he added.
Many of the other drivers also spoke.
Vince Bencivenga, a First Student driver and lifelong resident of the school district, said if the district contracts with another transportation company, at least 30 drivers who are district residents, may no longer have a job.
Also at its March 8 meeting, the board was told that wet weather has delayed construction of the new Rogers Primary School and the school may not open by December as planned.
Greer Hayden, president of HHSDR Architects and Engineers, told the board that he is not sure when the new school, which is a replacement for the Rogers school that was damaged by fire in 2015, would open.
“Wet weather has hampered progress. Hopefully lost time can be made up,” he said.
Rita Michel, freelance writer: email@example.com.