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Published: Wednesday, 3/23/2005

Sylvania: Board approved buying five new school buses

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Sylvania Board of Education has approved buying five new school buses as part of a three-year plan meant to bring 15 new buses to what is an increasingly aging fleet.

Although the board unanimously favored the plan, board president James Nusbaum said he first wants administrators to compile bid amounts and other factors that might be considered before completing a deal.

In addition to seeking bids for the buses, treasurer and chief financial officer Carol McElfresh said she intends to ask for terms on lease-purchase arrangements. And, there is a consortium of school districts that Sylvania might consider joining if it can buy buses less expensively through that group, she said.

Some of the buses in the district's fleet are 1983 models, although most of those are no longer in service, Ms. McElfresh said.

Until the mid to late 1990s, Ms. McElfresh said, the district had a regular schedule for replacing buses as they aged, but that was with state support. All of the buses operated by the district in 1983 had been purchased by the state.

That financial support has waned, however, and Sylvania schools have purchased buses when the need was clear and finances allowed it.

The state still has a reimbursement policy, but Ms. McElfresh said it will only cover 110 buses statewide this school year and is unlikely to be available at all next year.

She told the board it should consider a long-term program for replacing buses without counting on state funds.

Board member Pam Haynum said there has been criticism by people who say they see buses leaving schools that are only partially filled.

That can happen when a bus is leaving a high school, and has a limited number of passengers because the driver must quickly get them dropped off on the way to a junior high school or an elementary school where a bus load of students will be picked up, said Alan Bacho, director of facilities for the district.

The school system is responsible not only for the transportation of students to its buildings, but for transporting students to 49 other buildings for classes at private, parochial or charter schools.

Routes are established before the school year, but are adjusted to reflect actual ridership, said Dallas Jackson, assistant superintendent. Other changes are made through the year, too, sometimes because a charter school moves location.

Adjusting the logistics can be complicated by an aging fleet that has buses taken out of service for repairs.

"There's not a day that goes by that we aren't scrambling to find a bus,'' he said, "and it's going to get tougher with the beginning of spring sports.''

High school sports leagues often schedule Sylvania teams for later games, "because it's understood," that they'll arrive later, due to limited transportation resources, said board member David Spiess.

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096



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