Brentwood OKs plan to contract bus service with Baldwin-Whitehall
Neighboring school districts could contract together to transport special education and vocational students — cutting the costs for those routes nearly in half.
Brentwood Borough School District on Monday, in a 7-0 vote, approved a $272,640 one-year contract with the Baldwin-Whitehall School District, for the latter to provide busing for 72 students for the 2014-15 school year. Board members Roger Gaughan and Gary Topolosky were absent.
Baldwin-Whitehall School Board members were set to vote on the contract Wednesday night.
“It's a win for them and a win for us,” Brentwood business Manager Jennifer Pesanka said.
Brentwood is a walking school district and only uses bus transportation for students headed to schools outside of the district, such as those that need special education services or those headed to Steel Center for Career and Technical Education in Jefferson Hills.
The contract will allow Brentwood students who require buses to ride on Baldwin-Whitehall buses for all of those routes, Pesanka said. Some of the routes will combine students from both districts headed from the area to the same destination or nearby schools, she said.
“That makes such great sense,” Brentwood School Board member Donna Werner said.
For the last several years, Brentwood has contracted with PA Coach, Matthew Bus Company and First Student, Pesanka said.
The switch to Baldwin-Whitehall's district owned busing service will save Brentwood along $275,000 over what the district spent in 2013-14, Pesanka said. That is equal to about three-quarters of a mill in Brentwood, board member David Schaap said.
The agreement is a first for Baldwin-Whitehall, which operates its own transportation service, said Superintendent Randal Lutz. He said the districts have never shared busing services to this extent, he said.
Many times students from Baldwin-Whitehall and Brentwood attend the same schools outside of the neighboring districts and the Baldwin-Whitehall buses are not filled, Lutz said.
“Geographically, we usually are sending our vehicles through Brentwood to either pick students up in parts of our community or as we travel to schools that are closer to the city,” Lutz said. “Taking a few minutes to pick up students in Brentwood really does not change the overall routes by that much and allows us to share the costs of that vehicle related to the portion of students riding from that community.”
At one time, Brentwood contracted with Baldwin-Whitehall for busing services for students attending Steel Center and Mon Valley schools. Lutz said he doesn't know why that agreement ended.
The cost for a bus used for Baldwin-Whitehall and Brentwood students will be divided based on the percentage of students riding from each district, Lutz said.
“The main benefit is that since it is a neighboring district the buses do not have to travel a long distance to pick up our students, with decreases to our costs,” Pesanka said.
Of the 72 students that Baldwin-Whitehall will transport for Brentwood, 29 will go to Steel Center, three to Young Scholars Charter School of Western Pennsylvania in Baldwin Township, four to the DART program at the Wallace building in Baldwin Borough and the remainder to schools for special-needs students, Pesanka said.
The superintendents from Baldwin-Whitehall and Brentwood recently met to discuss ways to work together, Lutz said.
“Brentwood and Baldwin-Whitehall are very proud communities with rich tradition and histories,” Lutz said. “It only makes sense to look at operational-type activities to see where we can optimize efficiencies without increasing costs. If we can share some services that make sense for both school districts and communities then we can both win.”
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.