WORCESTER – More than $2 million could be saved if the Worcester Public School system transitioned to an in-house student transportation system, as presented at Monday’s Worcester Public School committee’s standing committee on finance and operations meeting.
Those savings represent a 16-percent reduction in cost for the district over the first year of implementation and $30 million over the next decade – all of which is summarized in a WPS report published this month.
Concluding after five years on the final day of the 2019-20 academic year, Monday’s meeting was held to review bids and decide on a student transportation services option.
Since the initial request for proposals on June 21, 2019, the only company to bid was Durham School Services – the district’s current vendor. Their bid is for a two-year contract with an optional third year.
According to the cost analysis report, the subcommittee predicts WPS would save $7.1 million over the next three years and $30 million over 10 years if they chose the self-operated busing model rather than an outside vendor.
Because WPS is educating the next generation of Worcester’s workforce, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce partners regularly with the district in a variety of ways.
Most recently, the Worcester Chamber has partnered with WPS on the relaunch of Worcester Night Life; the Innovation Pathway’s Initiative, which created career and technical programs at Worcester Technical High School for students from the comprehensive high schools; and the Opportunity Fairs, which have educated students and guidance counselors about career and technical training programs outside of higher education.
“Moreover,” added Alex Guardiola, the Chamber’s director of government affairs and public policy, “the Chamber has successfully advocated at the state level for expanded Chapter 70 funding as well as grant funding which have greatly benefited the district.”
As a result of this close collaboration, he said, the Chamber supports a district-operated transportation system believing the multi-million-dollar savings that would ensue far outweigh any potential operational challenges.
Mr. Guardiola added: “We understand the importance of every dollar in the public schools.” Considering the “multi-million-dollar savings that have been identified by the WPS finance office’s cost analysis and report, we feel strongly that these funds could be better utilized to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for students.”
“At a time when budgets are tight and securing additional resources is challenging,” Mr. Guardiola explained, “reinvesting these dollars into the schools is the most efficient and fiscally-prudent decision.”
Lastly, Mr. Guardiola said: “when the Mayor, School Committee and School Administration are asking the legislature and City for additional dollars and contemplating suing the state for increased aid, the Chamber feels the school committee and school administration have an obligation to seek and implement all money saving opportunities available to them.”
Dominique Goyette-Connerty is a communications and marketing associate for the Chamber and can be reached via email.