KINGSTON — Day care centers looking to provide transportation currently offered by Wyoming Valley West could contract with the Luzerne County Transportation Authority, according to authority Executive Director Norm Gavlick.
“We currently work with several day care centers doing exactly that, transporting students from the day care center to school and back,” Gavlick said. While LCTA can’t compete directly with private companies that contract student transportation services with school districts, the authority can transport to and from day care centers as part of its ride share program.
In fact, that’s what LCTA did several years ago when Wilkes-Barre Area School District stopped transporting students to and from day cares, Gavlick said. “The day care centers were getting a free service, getting kids transported from day care to school, which the districts aren’t required to do.” When Wilkes-Barre Area stopped the practice, several day cares contracted with LCTA to transport those students.
“The cost varies a little bit depending on the number of students and the distance from school. But considering the fact that we’re a not-for-profit company, we don’t have to have the mark-ups private companies have. So our rates are cheaper than most.”
Wyoming Valley West School Board President Joe Mazur said Tuesday the district discussed the move with day cares before school ended this spring, and voted to stop transporting students this month. The change takes effect the first Monday of November.
Transportation Director Kim Alfano said the move essentially eliminates using day cares as bus stops for district students. Parents who had children in a center and a student going to a district school would drop off and pick up both at the center, with the district taking them to and from there to the school. The new policy does not prevent the school students from catching a district bus, but they will have to do it at a designated bus stop and time.
Alfano estimated eliminating the day care stops will impact about 150 students. She agreed with an estimate by Business Manager Joe Rodriguez, who said the move could eliminate up to two bus runs, saving up to $78,000 a year.
Gavlick also touted a little-used option for transporting regular students if a bus gets too crowded: Buying one month passes for the regular LCTA routes. Wilkes-Barre Area has been doing this for several years. The passes cost a district $28 for one student for one month. That can be a big savings under certain circumstances, he said.
Districts typically pay a daily rate for a single bus regardless of the number of students aboard. In Wyoming Valley West, Rodriguez said that rate is $216 per day, or almost $39,000 for a 180-day school year. That’s enough to buy 10 monthly passes for 12 students, making the passes cheaper than a bus if the bus is being contracted to serve fewer than 12 students.
“And the students can use the bus pass anytime, seven days a week, to go anywhere in the system,” Gavlick added.
“It’s not a total solution,” he stressed. The LCTA routes don’t serve all areas of the county on a daily basis at the right time for many students. “But we can do a lot of work with some school districts. I’m surprised more don’t take advantage of that.”
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish