District will consider whether to pay bus company

District will consider whether to pay bus company

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The North Providence School Committee is set to decide this week whether to pay Durham School Services during the time its buses have been down during the pandemic.

The Breeze reported last week that Cumberland school officials had voted that it wasn’t “practicable” to pay Durham, effectively saving that district $900,000 in payments.

While schools aren’t obligated to pay the busing company when school isn’t in session and students are not being driven to school, said Cumberland attorney Stephen Adams, a further vote on the practicality of paying the company was needed based on the language of the federal CARES Act. Paying is strictly voluntary, he said, and is “aspirational” within the CARES Act.

Organizations eligible for grant funds must still pay employees during a pandemic, he said, unless it is not practicable, which was the case here.

North Providence Supt. Joseph Goho said attorney Ben Scungio has reviewed the district’s individual contract with Durham and the specifics of the CARES Act, “and has formulated options for the School Committee to consider” at its meeting tonight, Wednesday, June 24.

Goho said the estimated savings if the district decides not to pay Durham is $700,000.

A two-part on the agenda for tonight’s 6 p.m. Zoom meeting shows:

• Discussion/approval of payment to the student transportation company for the balance of the school year;

• And discussion/approval of a student transportation contract with Durham.

The committee recommitted to Durham in April after a bidding process that saw First Student also place a bid.

The North Providence School Department’s 2019-2020 contract with Durham includes an emergency clause stipulating that in the event of an emergency, the district may pay 50 percent of its bill for the first nine days. After the nine days, they move to a negotiated rate. Talks with Durham have been ongoing.

Comments

This may back fire a bit come the fall, if we go back to school. I've heard without paying something to these bus companies they have laid off the drivers. These drivers have to keep up driving and medical qualifications. With no towns paying, not only North Providence, there is going to be a huge shortage of drivers come the fall because of expired medical and driving certificates. I'm not saying there is a good solution, but are towns making sure to plan for the future.