Peekskill schools could streamline their student transportation program and potentially save money by adjusting current busing operations, a consultant told the Board of Education Tuesday night.
Louis J. “Lou” Boffardi, a consultant with Walworth, NY-based Transportation Advisory Services (TAS), described Peekskill’s transportation system as “good” in terms of structure and routing but suggested that the district reconsider its “liberal” accommodation of parental requests and enforce the annual April 1 deadline for transportation requests. Boffardi, a former schools superintendent, also recommended that the district revisit the way Mile Square Transportation bills the schools for its services.
TAS was founded in 1987 and describes itself on its Web site as “the Nation’s largest dedicated student transportation consulting firm,” with more than 400 studies conducted.
Peekskill utilizes 39 vehicles – eight buses, mostly for transportation between home and district schools; four vans within the district; and 27 other vehicles, mostly vans for special-education students, that transport 460 youngsters to 49 locations. Tight scheduling enables one vehicle to service more than one school, Boffardi said. Routing – which determines the number of vehicles needed, cost and services – is mapped by district transportation staff during the summer.
Boffardi, while not citing dollar amounts, suggested that the district review its approach to the following:
Bus stops. The district’s “liberal” response to parental requests to change stops results in overcrowding on some buses and underutilization of others.
Child-care locations. While acknowledging the importance of child care before and after school, especially for single parents, Boffardi said location changes affect the number of students on buses. He suggested that the district, which has been “liberal” in responding to requests of parents and guardians, insist that it be notified of any child-care transportation needs by the April 1 deadline (which also applies to requests for transportation to parochial and private schools). Timely notification is essential for proper planning, he said. In response to a question from board member Marcela Bobe about an unforeseen location change, Boffardi said many districts allow it if space on the bus is available and the route is not affected.
Ridership updates. Boffardi suggested three during the school year – possibly keyed to the fall, winter and spring sports seasons – with busing adjustments as indicated.
Cooperative/shared transportation (piggybacking) with neighboring districts. Peekskill cannot offer piggybacking to its neighbors because of the nature of its contract for busing. But a Peekskill student could piggyback on, for example, a Lakeland Central School District bus because Lakeland owns its bus fleet. Boffardi said the state Legislature is considering a more liberal approach to piggybacking.
Billing. Peekskill’s contract with Mile Square utilizes what Boffardi described as a “dated” approach in which services are billed in whole hours; thus, three hours and 10 minutes are billed as four hours. Most contracts, Boffardi said, bill in half-hour segments, broken at the 15-minute mark; thus, three hours and 14 minutes are billed as three hours while three hours and 18 minutes are billed as 3.5 hours. Superintendent of Schools James Willis said he would contact Yonkers-based Mile Square about adjusting the billing procedure.
In response to other board questions, Boffardi suggested that any questions about liability and transportation issues be referred to the district’s attorney while Carmine Crisci, district director of facilities and transportation, said the district does not let a student take a different bus to a visit a friend’s home.