Brainerd school buses will soon become more safe for young riders and, in turn, may potentially lead to better student behavior on the bus.
The Brainerd School Board Monday approved the transportation contract with Reichert Bus Service for the 2011-13 school years at a total cost of about $3.5 million. This contract represents about 5 percent of the district’s total budget.
The new contract reflects modest rate increases, including $18,500, or .53 percent, for the 2011-12 school year, and $3,800, or .11 percent, for the 2012-13 school year, for a total .32 percent per year average increase, or less than 1 percent. The contract calls for no rate increases on regular or special education bus routes. The increases mostly involve adjusting the fee structure for field trip buses and sports shuttles.
Steve Lund, director of business services, said the district has been working with an independent contractor since last October in preparing for when the current contract expires on June 30.
The contractor, Chuck Corliss, has worked with many districts across the state on school transportation and helped the district add additional safety and service components to the contract, Lund said.
Reichert Bus Service provides student transportation for the district, including 63 regular bus routes, 12 special education routes, as well as athletic, activities and field trip transportation.
As part of the contract, the district will be installing two cameras — for the front and back of the bus — along with an audio recording system on each of the district’s buses, both regular and special education buses.
All regular buses will be outfitted with swing gates, an arm that drops in front of the bus that requires students to walk a specific distance away from the bus so the bus driver can see them.
The buses also will be outfitted with a child check system which requires the bus drivers to walk to the back of the bus in order to disable the child check system at the end of the route. This will help ensure there are no sleeping kindergartners left on the bus, said Lund.
The contract also includes eight hours of additional training per school year for bus drivers, four hours before school starts and four hours during the school year. This will be a collaborative effort between Reichert and school staff.
Reichert had originally agreed to implement this new technology on the buses and increase the district’s rates for this, said Lund. Instead, the district will pay for all the new technology, with about 70-80 percent of it paid for through the district’s safe schools funding and the rest from the district’s capital fund, said Lund. He said this allowed the district to keep future district’s transportation rate increases low.
Lund said costs to the district will be about $120,000 for cameras for all 75 buses and about $26,000 for the swing gates on the front of buses as well as the child check system. The district will pay for the initial purchase of these safety features and Reichert agreed to maintain and replace or update them in the future.
Lund said the $16,000 cost for additional training will be split evenly between the district and Reichert.
Lund said the goal is not only student safety but changing student behavior on the bus.
“Smile, you’re going to be on camera,” Lund said, of the new changes.
“I like all the additional safety features,” said board member Ruth Nelson. “To get that without a large increase, good job.”
Board member Tom Haglin also supported the changes, particularly the extra training for drivers.
Lund noted that he and staff have been working collaboratively with Mike Moran on the contract changes.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.