IDAHO, USA — More than 8,000 students ride the bus each day in Idaho’s largest school district – West Ada.
But attracting and keeping people to drive those students has been a struggle the past few years. Not only that, but some bus routes are also taking longer.
On Monday, the West Ada School Board approved an 18% increase in funding for Cascade Student Transportation, the company that runs the district’s bus routes. It would cost the district about $2.3 million this school year.
Most of the money would go toward bus drivers’ salaries - $1.9 million to be exact. While $400,000 would go toward operating costs.
The school board also heard an update on the district’s “on time” percentage. Chief operations officer Johnathan Gillen said that percentage hovers around 89%. But he said that’s not good enough and that they’re aiming for 100%.
Gillen said they’re working to hire more drivers with a commercial driver's license and without. Part of that includes potentially buying “mini buses,” which seat 15 students or less.
“We’re looking at some options for what we can do,” he said. “Are there components of our route schedule we can identify? One we talked about is middle school athletics … anywhere we can relieve some pressure either from the district staff or from Cascade staff."
West Ada's spokesperson told KTVB it manages 175 total bus routes throughout Boise, Meridian, Star and Eagle. Gillen said most middle and high school routes run about 30 minutes.
Most of the delays come from the elementary school routes, particularly in Eagle. He said out of the 100 routes, 11 run over 40 minutes.
While the board voted unanimously to approve the 18% increase, there were some concerns. Board trustee David Binetti said it seems like they're "rewarding a substandard performance."
“It’s the best thing we can do for our kids right now,” Binetti said. “If it’s the thing that’s going to help improve our transportation reliability and timeliness by getting drivers that we need, then I’m going to support it … as reluctantly as I feel about it.”
The increase isn’t official. The State Department of Education still needs to approve the contract change. Gillet said he doesn’t anticipate any issues with it being approved.
West Ada has 1.5 years left in its contract with Cascade Student Transportation, he said.
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