Q & A about Ritenour Owned and Operated Student Bus Service

  • Q: What does Ritenour Owned and Operated bus service mean?
    A: Ritenour will lease-purchase school buses and hire its own employees to run bus service for Ritenour students.

    Q: How will this be different than what Ritenour does now regarding student bus transportation?
    A: Currently, Ritenour contracts with First Student to provide school buses and drivers to transport Ritenour students to and from school.

    Q: Will bus service still be free for students who qualify to take a bus to and from school?
    A: Yes.

    Q: When will Ritenour begin running its own transportation service?
    A: The Ritenour Board of Education approved the request for the district owning and operating its own student transportation on April 3, 2017. The district will begin its own student transportation beginning in the 2017-2018 school year. Its contract with First Student ends on June 30, 2017.

    Q: What improvements can parents expect next year with Ritenour buses?
    A: Based on a tremendous amount of feedback from parents and school administrators, Ritenour will have more control over the transportation system.  This will help to ensure that its buses will transport students safely to and from school and be on time. This also will help to ensure that every bus is maintained at the highest level possible level. Student safety and reliability are paramount.

    Q: What does it mean to “lease-purchase” school buses?
    A: Ritenour will pay Central States Bus Sales Co. for a five-year or seven-year lease for buses. After that period, the district will own its buses. This spreads out the payments over a longer period instead of paying for them in one large payment.  It is similar to a car loan.

    Q: Why did Ritenour decide to own and operate its own student bus service rather than contract out to another company?
    A: Over the last few years, an increasing number of Ritenour parents and administrators have expressed concerns about the safety and reliability of the transportation of Ritenour students.  Additionally, bids that were sought to contract bus service for next year came in at least 10 percent more than what the district currently spends on student bus transportation. The decision to own and operate student bus transportation services is the best option that addresses student safety and being good stewards of taxpayer money.

    The district also explored the possibility of sharing school buses and operation costs with two nearby school districts that are similar in size to Ritenour. This option, however, proved to be cost prohibitive.

    Q: How many buses will Ritenour lease-purchase?
    A: Ritenour will lease-purchase 28 buses. Of those buses, 15 will have a seven-year lease agreement; 13 buses will have a five-year lease agreement. After that period, the district will own the buses outright.

    Q: How many routes will Ritenour buses run?
    A: Based on this year’s routes, Ritenour plans to run 23 routes. There will be extra buses on hand for student  athletics and activity trips, transporting Project Challenge students to the new Project Challenge center at Hoech Middle School and for unexpected emergencies.  The district will evaluate and adjust the number of routes based on the number of students who qualify and use district transportation. 

    Q: Will the buses that Ritenour lease-purchases be used or new?
    A: All buses that Ritenour lease-purchases will be brand new and will be fully equipped with cameras, digital radios with built-in GPS, a child minder system (which ensures that no students are left on the bus after a route is completed) and engine block warmers (to help ensure quick startup during frigid temperatures). One bus also will have a wheelchair lift.  Buses will accommodate 71-77 students each.

    Q: How long will Ritenour keep the buses in operation?
    A: Based on current mileage estimates, buses should last 10-12 years. 

    Q: Will the district save money by owning and operating buses?
    A: The cost of owning and operating school buses next year will be about the same amount the district currently pays First Student for bus service.  The district is paying First Student approximately $1.8 million this school year for its services. The estimated cost of the district operating its own buses next year is approximately $1.8 million. That amount includes lease-purchasing 28 buses, providing salaries, benefits and training of transportation staff (including bus drivers), fuel, maintenance and repairs, and leasing a parking area.  The district estimates it will cost about $9.4 million over five years to own and operate student transportation services.

    Q: Does the state provide funding for student transportation?
    A: Yes, however, due to numerous budget cuts over many years, including the current year, the state only reimburses about 21.57 percent of allowable transportation costs.  The state’s transportation formula is designed to reimburse 75 percent of allowable transportation costs.  Ritenour is expecting to receive only about $279,000 this year from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that is specifically earmarked for school bus transportation. The district expects about the same amount from the state during the next school year. 

    Q: Will the district have its own mechanics maintaining and addressing problems with the buses?
    A: No, in the beginning, the district is working with L&C Truck Repair in Overland to provide routine maintenance and repairs to district buses. The district is proud to use a company located in the Ritenour School District to service our buses. This company will be able to address urgent needs 24 hours a day, with the capability to work on the buses during overnight hours, if needed, so there is no disruption to service when our buses serve our students.  In the future, the district may hire its own mechanic.  Since the district is lease-purchasing brand new buses with warranties, repairs and maintenance needs should be minimal.

    Q: Will Ritenour continue with the one-mile/hazardous route rule for students to qualify for service?
    A: Yes, upon sufficient funding, and approval by the Ritenour Board of Education.  

    Q: When will I know if my student qualifies for bus transportation and what our bus route will be.
    A. A representative from Ritenour’s transportation department will contact eligible families with information prior to the start of school.  To check if your children qualify for bus service, see Board Policy EEA.

    Q: How many people does Ritenour plan to hire to meet the needs of operating its own bus service for students?
    A: The district plans to hire 30 highly-qualified individuals, preferably from the Ritenour community. New employees include a director of transportation, a dispatcher, an office professional and bus drivers. Transportation employees will receive salaries and benefits commensurate with their experience, education and training. On April 3, 2017 the Ritenour Board of Education approved a competitive 16-step salary schedule for bus drivers that begins at $14/hour and tops out at $23/hour. Ritenour plans to provide ongoing training to all transportation staff to ensure best practices are used to keep our students safe. Like all other Ritenour employees, transportation staff will be thoroughly vetted with background checks. Drivers must be certified to drive school buses, have an outstanding driving record and meet all other Ritenour standards. Student safety is our priority.

    Q: How many Ritenour students use bus service this year,  and does the district expect more students who qualify for service to use it?
    A: As of the fall 2016, 2,955 Ritenour students rode buses. We cannot predict if more students who qualify for bus service will use it next year, but will adjust routes as needed.