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SAD 17 abandons single-tier busing for 2011-12
OXFORD HILLS — The Oxford Hills school district will not be going to a single-tier bus system for it's elementary and high school students in 2011-12, said Superintendent Rick Colpitts at the SAD 17 meeting on April 4.
Instead, said Colpitts, the district is finding ways to save money while continuing to use the current, two-tier system that buses younger students separately from those bound for Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.
The superintendent has been consulting with residents, bus drivers, and school officials to get their concerns regarding a potentially more cost-efficient method of busing that would combine bus routes for students of all ages. In the end, he found that, while the method would save a substantial amount of money, there were some concerns that could not be resolved.
"I believe that we could have implemented single-tier busing this year but it would have stretched out resources to the max," said Colpitts.
He was confident that anticipated savings between $300,000 and $400,000 would have materialized. In fact, said Colpitts, other schools that have implemented single-tier busing have found that actual savings outstrip their initial estimates.
Nonetheless, some problems would inevitably accompany the benefits.
Colpitts said wait-time was an issue for elementary school students in the more-distant towns. They would need to arrive at school well before the day began in order for high schoolers on the same bus to arrive at OHCHS on time. Colpitts said Otisfield elementary students would need to be dropped off about a half hour before school started, and picked up a half hour after school.
"Kids in Otisfield may have to wait an extra hour a day versus kids in Rowe and Oxford," Colpitts said. "And kids in Otisfield would be out there on a longer bus ride to get to the high school."
In addition, the district could not be sure that their buses have the capacity to handle all the students they may need to. The buses' official capacity may be greater in theory than in practice, according to bus drivers with whom Colpitts met.
"The bus drivers readily admit that their buses are not full, but they say, 'if everybody rode the bus, my bus would be very close to full,'" said Colpitts. "Many of our buses are going with 34-50 kids at the elementary level and some are as low as 20 for the high school students, but if they all rode, then we would have 50 high school students and 70 elementary school students."
While a single-tier system is currently not feasible, Colpitts reported that bus drivers did identify some ways in which the district could save money by changing routes to save time and fuel. In addition, Colpitts said the town would be moving away from door-to-door service on the buses used for extra-curricular activities.
All told, Colpitts said the savings would amount to $110,000.
"The drivers identified efficiencies in both miles and labor; in other words, routes they could modify or hours they didn't need to drive," said Colpitts. "We felt there was a savings of about $110,000 if we could realize those efficiencies."
While single tier for the whole district will not work, Colpitts recommended continuing to study a hybrid system that would implement single tier for central towns like Norway, Paris and Oxford, while keeping the current system for outlying towns. This could eliminate the concerns about wait time.
"I'm also recommending that we continue to study the single-tier but we do so in a hybrid model," said Colpitts. "Maybe because of the close proximity of Oxford, Rowe, and Paris, we could do a single-tier system because there are only 10 minutes between schools. However, maybe we need to continue with a two- tier system for some of our more remote schools, picking up high school and elementary school kids on different buses, and to travel to the schools at different times."