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School Board authorizes Executive Committee to approve contract for transportation services

By Bill ShortMillington Schools logo

The Millington School Board voted last week to authorize its Executive Committee to approve a contract with Durham School Services for student transportation.
Board members took the action last Thursday night during a special called meeting on a motion offered by Don Holsinger and seconded by Cody Childress.
The motion was passed by a 4-1 vote, with Childress dissenting. Jennifer Carroll and Louise Kennon were absent.
Dr. David Roper, superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools, noted that the attorneys for the various municipal school districts are reviewing the “final stages” of the contract.
But based on planned bus routes and projected “bell times” (the schools’ daily starting and ending times), Roper said Durham has estimated that the Millington district will need 21 buses to transport students to its four schools, at an annual cost of $49,000 for each bus.
During the past few weeks, Roper has been investigating the possibility of reducing the current three bell times to two. But because of the “logistics” of the bus routes, Durham has indicated that would require six more buses, at an additional cost of $300,000.
Roper said the company is not sure whether it would have sufficient time to hire six more bus drivers before the new school year begins. So, for the coming year, he concluded that it would be best for the district to keep the three bell times.
“Even though we don’t believe that’s the ideal situation,” he acknowledged, “it would save us approximately $300,000. And I believe it would ensure us the ability to have the proper transportation on Aug. 4.”
Roper said Durham has “extensively planned” bus routes based on what the bell times were for the 2013-14 academic year. And at this point, it would be “very difficult” for the company to plan new routes for two of Millington’s schools based on different bell times.
Although Durham is planning bus routes for all the school districts, Roper said those will not affect Millington’s routes much if at all, because the city is “geographically isolated.” So, there will not be the opportunity to “share” the bus routes in Millington like there would be with “contiguous” municipalities, such as Lakeland and Arlington.
But Roper acknowledged that there will be “some modification” of Millington’s routes. As an example, he said E. A. Harrold Elementary School will no longer share a route with E. E. Jeter Elementary, which is in the Shelby County School System.
He said the projected enrollment this fall for Millington Central High School is 1,000 to 1,100 students and approximately 600 for Millington Middle School. E. A. Harrold is expected to have slightly less than 400, with more than 800 for Millington Elementary School.
Board Chairman Greg Ritter said that would be 1,700 students arriving at school at 7 a.m. each day and 500 fewer at 8 a.m.
“If 21 buses is the number for 1,700 kids,” he noted, “there’s no way that they couldn’t transport 1,200 an hour later.”
While acknowledging that the contract does not include fuel cost, Roper said he is attempting to determine whether the school system can “get access” to purchase its own fuel.
Although it is a three-year contract, he said it will allow the school system to begin “phasing in” newer, air-conditioned buses that will not be available until after the first year.
Holsinger said he wants Durham to explain to the board why it would cost “so much more” to reduce the bell times from three to two.
“We’re probably going to have to approve the contract, because we’ve got to have buses for Aug. 4,” he said. “But if Durham’s explanation isn’t good enough, I want us to have some kind of an option to do something else next year.”
Concurring with Holsinger, Ritter said he would really like to see a one-year contract.
Roper said he would ask a representative of Durham and one from Shared Services for Transportation to respond to the board members’ questions at another special meeting scheduled for early this week.

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