Meridian Schools wants private company to handle its school buses

Meridian Schools wants private company to handle its school buses »Play Video

MERIDIAN, Idaho (KBOI) - The Meridian School District wants to turn its school bus operations over to a private company.

With school funding cuts over the past few years, transportation funding took a big hit. As a result, the Meridian School District cut out its midday kindergarten busing, and that's where district officials say the problem begins.
According to Eric Exline, a Meridian Schools spokesman, bus driving used to be a daily six-and-a-half-hour job when kindergarten busing was still in place. But now, it's only about a four-hour-a-day job, which the district says isn't enough work hours to keep drivers with Meridian schools.

"We consistently run 30 drivers short day in and day out," Exline said.

But Exline says that's not even the worst part of the problem.

"Attendance in kindergarten is not as good as it used to be," Exline told KBOI. "I think that's because of the difficulty some parents have transporting their kids in the middle of the day."

Exline says kids missing out on kindergarten altogether because they can't get a ride to school is a serious educational concern that needs to be fixed. So the district is asking private bus companies for bids to fix the problem by taking over all transportation responsibilities, including staffing.

Meridian Schools says any of its current bus drivers who want to keep their jobs should be able to. And Exline says, with a contracted company, schools in Meridian should see newer buses and enhanced student security, as well.

The school district says it will have to get a reasonable bid at about what it's paying now for busing in order to switch over to a private company. It hopes to begin talks with private companies by the middle of April, and, if everything works out, the new bus system would go into effect  by next school year.