Mount Desert Island school officials should be encouraged to explore the creation of a single school bus system. Currently, student transportation on the island is governed by a complex web of contracts. Because each town operates independently, there is significant inefficiency in the way routes are designed and operated.
The six main towns in the district and MDI High currently have seven separate contracts with two different companies. Tracking all that takes an inordinate amount of administrative time. A single contract awarded to one entity in a competitive bidding process would make transportation planning and operations much easier.
Operating a single system would open the possibility that long, dead-end routes could be reduced or eliminated. Some students might spend less time languishing on long bus rides twice a day. As more effective transportation routes and schedules are developed, perhaps the number of part-time drivers could be reduced.
Functioning as a single district would provide the towns a stronger negotiating position. A further advantage, children from multiple elementary schools riding on the same bus will only make it easier for them to adapt, when they all eventually end up at MDI High School.
Last week, school district superintendent Howard Colter acknowledged, in discussing the issue, that member towns value their independence. However, when it comes to saving taxpayer money, it makes sense, said Mr. Colter, “to work in a common, consolidated way.”
Mr. Colter will report back to school officials early next year on his investigation into the benefits and drawbacks of consolidating the bus contracts. Meanwhile, let’s hope everyone keeps an open mind.