CALCUTTA - Beaver Local school board members met in special session Wednesday to reconsider bringing the school district into a new transportation consortium, a measure that had been tabled following disagreement at the April 14 meeting.
President Greg Eisenhart asked board members to reconsider a recommendation from Superintendent Kent Polen for Beaver Local to join the Columbiana County Transportation Shared Services Consortium, currently still in the organizational stages.
The consortium currently comprises Lisbon schools, the county ESC and county Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.
Board member Lance Shultz asked if joining the consortium meant taking steps to eliminate the position of district transportation supervisor. Polen replied that the consortium would employ a single transportation supervisor.
Shultz questioned the wisdom of having a supervisor in Lisbon making daily bus route decisions, particularly during the winter, without actually seeing or driving the roads in the Beaver Local area. Polen replied that there would still be people scouting local roads on snowy mornings and other potential calamity days.
The consortium would employ two part-time dispatchers - one morning shift, one afternoon shift - managing routes. A new routing software package would assist dispatchers with coordinating bus schedules and routes as well, Polen said.
In addition, district buses would be equipped with GPS units, allowing real-time tracking of each bus, which Polen said would enhance student safety as well as maintaining drop-off and pick-up schedules. In addition, he says there will be greater radio coverage for Beaver buses, which has been a problem for district drivers in the past.
With encouragement from the state, Polen says school districts are looking for additional ways to cut spending, which is a significant motivating factor. "The big thing about this consortium is to save money," he said. "We're looking at the possibility of reducing bus routes. We'd save money with salary, benefits and fuel charges."
On the whole, Shultz remained unconvinced. "My position has been that a lot of this is good, to be able to pull together resources and lower costs for everybody," he said. However, the remote dispatcher located outside of district boundaries continued to trouble him.
"I don't feel that there's somebody in Lisbon that can determine whether or not State Line Road, Grimm's Bridge, Tomahawk and some of these other roads that get extremely, extremely bad - that somebody out of our district up north is going to be able to make that determination, even with help," Shultz said.
Nevertheless, Shultz voted for approval along with the majority, with Bill Croxall the sole vote against joining the consortium.