FRAMINGHAM - The Framingham School Committee is preparing to make a decision on how to proceed with school bus operations within the city amid the ongoing driver shortage.
During the committee’s meeting on Wednesday, January 17, Executive Director of Finance and Operations for the school district Lincoln Lynch mentioned that Framingham is still seeing just 57 drivers serving local schools at most; that remains 20 drivers short of what their contract with NRT Bus, Inc. calls for. District 4 Committee Member Adam Freudberg added that the number of drivers recently has been as low as 53.
With that, Lynch said that more “realistic options” will be presented to the School Committee during its February 7 meeting. At that time, he said that he’d be looking for “some serious guidance” at the very least—and potentially a vote on how to proceed—considering that the next fiscal year is set to start in just a few months.
“As you all know, we don’t stop over the summer,” Lynch continued.
“Some districts stop and have two months to regroup—we’re transporting 3,000, 3,500 students to summer programs. So we need our bus operation ready to go July 1, so we can get students to and from those summer programs.”
Three options are set to be given to the School Committee: Framingham can either continue their relationship with NRT, bring bus operations under the purview of the city government, or look for a different vendor to carry out busing. If bus operations are brought in-house, bus drivers would become city employees while buses would be leased; Framingham could lease buses through NRT or they could accept a separate bid they recently received for leasing services. A bid related to finding a different bus vendor is primed to be sent out in the near future as well.
“We need to be ready at our next meeting to make this decision, in my mind,” Freudberg told his colleagues during the meeting.
Freudberg added that the district should also explore the possibility of billing NRT for breach of contract in order to make up for costs related to the driver shortage, such as passes with the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority.
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