The Concord Public Schools and Concord-Carlisle Regional School District are looking into the possibility utilizing privatized busing services.
According to John Flaherty, Deputy Superintendent for Finance and Operations, the district has retained the services of a consultant charged with looking into the possibility of outsourcing busing services. Requests for bids, Flaherty said, will be prepared and issued pending approval of the proposed CCHS building project.
According to the plans for the , the land that currently makes up the district's Transportation Department will be used for part of the new facility. Relocation of the Transportation Department is estimated to cost between $1-$2 million. That cost is not included the $92.5 million price tag on the proposed high school project.
Finding a home for the department is another issue, according to Flaherty.
"We've looked at the possibility but we haven't found anything within Concord," he said.
Though open to the possibility of relocating the Transportation Department, Flaherty said the district is no longer actively looking for a potential site.
"We've asked the drivers, the Transportation employees, if they have suggestions, to please let us know what they are," Flaherty said.
One bus driver, speaking along side coworkers under the condition of anonymity, said a suggestion to house the buses in front of the high school was shot down.
If privatization becomes a reality, the fate of the approximately 35 employees of the Transportation Department is uncertain.
Flaherty said, "It may be a bit premature to comment on just what the final outcome would be," should the transportation services be outsourced. Flaherty did say in other districts that have changed services, bus drivers will often apply for positions with that district's new transportation service provider.
"That option would be there," he said.
To the employees of the department though, the outcome seems more cut-and-dried.
"It would be a major loss to a bunch of us," said one driver, who is only a few years away from retirement. Loss of health insurance is a big concern for the bus drivers.
Typically working 10 months a year, 25 hours per week, bus drivers have to accumulate 30 years in order to retire with benefits, according to the bus driver.
The driver said people in the department have developed a strong rapport with students and families, and feared putting new people behind the wheels of the buses could lead to disruptions or mistakes along the routes, citing the earlier this year after a switch in transportation management there.
"We know all the kids, we have a good reputation in town. They don't know what they'd be getting," the bus driver said.
In addition to the Concord Public and Concord-Carlisle schools, the Transportation Department provides busing for the , , Recreation Department outings, and is on call for use in emergency evacuations. The department also has three in-house mechanics who service all buses and School District vehicles.
"They say it'll save a lot of money, but I doubt it," another driver said of the potential change.
Flaherty said he did not know how much the district could possibly save by going with a private company. Those estimates, he said, would only be available after the request for bids is issued.
"We will need to see what private sectors will charge to provide the services, so that will come in time," he said.
If the CCHS project receives , Flaherty said "there would be site work that would impact the site beginning next spring."
What that would mean for operations at that time, Flaherty didn't know, saying. "We'd have to look carefully at how it all phases out."
There is a public hearing to discuss the articles of the November Special Town Meeting, including the CCHS proposal, on Thursday, Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. at the Town House.
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