Monroe County Schools hires company from Michigan to run some bus routes

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana school district is hiring a company out of Michigan to help run about a third of its bus routes.

The Monroe County Community School Corporation's board awarded bids on 42 of its bus routes to Auxilio, a Michigan-based company. The company will set up shop in the Bloomington area, hire local drivers, and provide its own buses, according to the district.

Spokesperson Andrew Clampitt said the contractor was needed to help fill a bus driver shortage that's been happening for years.

"(We are) anywhere from 15 to 20 routes a day short, which means double routes are having to be run (and) kids are getting to school late," Clampitt said.

The district is one of many across Indiana that have said it is increasingly difficult to hire bus drivers.

Parents, though, have raised questions about the out-of-state deal. Nikki McElhone-Murphy, who puts four kids on the same bus daily, said they'll likely lose their driver and don't know who will replace her.

"My kids are attached to this bus driver, they love her. (They) behave for her, she can handle them," McElhone-Murphy said.

Clampitt said the owner-operators who had been running about 25 of the routes which will be taken over can choose to work for Auxilio.

"All of those owner-operators have the ability to join the Auxilio team and stay with those routes that they’ve driven for years," Clampitt said.

Clampitt and district leaders said they'd heard concerns that the entire transportation department would eventually be farmed out to an outside company. They said that is not possible under a union deal which only allows them to contract out up to 50 routes, and Auxilio will still report to MCCSC, where the district will continue to employee drivers for two-thirds of its routes and remain the central dispatch center.

"It’s pretty much going to be transportation as usual," Clampitt said.

McElhone-Murphy said she wasn't so sure, and was concerned that more parents didn't know about this deal or what it mean for their kids.

"I think they’ve taken the easy way out to try and put a band aid on a problem that they didn’t even try to fix in the first place," McElhone-Murphy said.

According to Clampitt, the deal will cost about $3.4 million over four years, and the district will come close to breaking even on costs. He said Auxilio will be able to offer more competitive pay and deals that should entice drivers which the district could not offer.