Apr 21, 2010 12:22 AM by David Ortiviz

D-70 outsources bus service, despite protests

School District 70 has decided to stop operating its school buses. The decision was made at a school board meeting Tuesday night at Pueblo West High School. By a vote of 4-0, the board unanimously passed a measure to contract bus transportation out to a private company. School board member David Valdez did not attend the meeting.

Beginning next school year, a company called First Student will operate the buses and hire its own drivers. At the meeting a company spokesperson said they would hire drivers locally.

Still, the district's decision came as a big disappointment for current drivers who waved signs and made heartfelt pleas against the proposal. "This is a big change for all the bus drivers at District 70 and it's pretty emotional for me because I've been here so long," said Gary Barnhart, who's been a bus driver for 17 years. "I feel like the district has sold us out a little bit," he added.

School District 70 needs to cut $5.8 million from the 2010-2011 budget. The district will sell its buses to First Student and will no longer have to spend money to maintain them. A spokesperson for D-70 says this should save the district an estimated $400,000.

First Student says it plans to make some safety improvements to the buses, including installing GPS devices.



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