GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Greencastle parents and bus drivers stood outside the entrance to a school board meeting at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School Thursday night holding signs that read: “No contractors.”
Their peaceful protest was to encourage board members to vote against outsourcing 14 bus routes to contractors.
“We don’t want to lose our jobs. I’ve hauled kindergarten students long enough to see them graduate,” said Jackie Simmons, a school district bus driver and spokeswoman for the drivers.
Simmons, who has been a driver for 26 years, said all of the bus drivers are district employees.
With the school district facing tough economic constraints, the board asked Business Manager Dick Lipella to conduct a cost-review analysis of the transportation department.
The transportation budget is about $1.5 million each year, Lipella said.
Based on a four-year cost analysis of seven contractors, Lipella told the board that the district’s transportation department was the most cost effective, offering from $192,000 to almost $1 million in savings over the four-year total.
“We are lower in every case,” Lipella said.
“I was shocked — in a good way,” board member Tracy Baer said.
Currently, the district replaces its buses every two years in a buyback program with Wolfington Body Co. of Exton, Pa.
After Lipella presented his findings to the board, it voted 9-0 to approve the 2012-2013 buyback program at a cost of $301,100. It also authorized Lipella to execute the contract keeping the district's bus service and its drivers.
The bus drivers and parents erupted in applause and cheers following the vote.
“I’m very happy and appreciative, and I want to thank the board,” Simmons said.
After the vote, Lipella said he was never in favor of outsourcing.
“I think we run an excellent system. We have very committed drivers. I just think they go above and beyond on a regular basis, and that’s important for the safety of the kids in the community. I think that’s very difficult to try to put a dollar value on,” Lipella said.