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Macomb schools getting back into the bus business

Rich Egger

After decades of outsourcing its transportation system, the Macomb School District is changing course.

The school board this week agreed to proceed with acquiring 18 new buses for next school year.

Under the current agreement, Durham School Services owns the buses and handles all of the district’s transportation-related matters.

Board member Kristen Terry pushed for the change, yet she was the only one who voted against the plan. She wants the district to do more than get buses -- she wants to bring the entire system back in-district.

“I think that you could hire a general manager, and have that general manager make the bus routes and stuff like that,” she said.

Terry believes that could be accomplished in time for the start of next school year.

Superintendent Patrick Twomey said the district could still decide down the road to bring the entire operation in-house.

“Third party contracting has its pros and cons, and the pro is that all of those things are somebody else’s headaches. They belong to us when we bring them in-house,” he said.

“But I’m really fairly neutral. I do think it’s a board decision on what they think is best for the community.”

Twomey said the district will lease the buses for three years, with the option to buy them after that. The first-year cost will be $642,000.

All the buses will all be brand new, and will have the Macomb School District’s name on them instead of Durham’s name.

Twomey said the current buses are 10 to 12 years old on average and are not in good shape. He said there is no community pride in aging buses that don’t even have the district’s name on them.

“I think there’s something to be said for how we get our kids back and forth to school and the importance – or non-importance – that we put on that,” he said.

16 of the new buses will seat up to 77 passengers. The other two buses will be the same size as those but will seat 66 passengers and include a lift to provide wheelchair accessibility.

Twomey believes the first year of the program will end up costing the district a bit more than it currently pays for transportation services, but he believes the district will save money in the long-term.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.