By Ryan Blessing
Sun staff writer
WESTERLY — The Westerly School Committee is taking a look at privatizing the school department’s bus fleet.
“As we start the budget cycle, it’s always worthwhile to look at privatization of any of the functions that we do in-house,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau said.
The last time the district explored privatizing buses was in 2015, Garceau said. It would be a matter of issuing requests for proposals, he said, “to see if there are any vendors interested in taking on the contract and assuming responsibility for transportation of the district.”
The 2015 initiative would have privatized buses for a three-year period, Garceau said. “It was determined at the end of that process that it made more sense to stay within house,” he said.
Garceau asked the School Committee for permission to solicit proposals from private companies, with the bids due in mid-January. The committee agreed to do so at its Wednesday meeting.
A 2010 report showed that a district-operated school bus fleet would cost less overall than a privately managed fleet.
Garceau also told the committee that the district’s buses have been outfitted with GPS tracking systems that will allow parents to use a smartphone application to track their child’s bus to and from school.
“The application that parents are looking forward to that will give real-time updates of where buses are is being worked on now,” he said. The application should be up and running by Nov. 1, Garceau said.
“What’s most important is that we have it done by the first snowstorm, but we’re hoping that by Nov. 1 we’ll meet that need,” Garceau said.