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April 10. 2014 11:01PM

Salem wants to keep school bus options open

SALEM — The school district will look to negotiate a new two-year contract with First Student, its current bus transportation company.In two years, however, the district might look at a more regional approach to transportation, as several other school districts in the area will see their transportation contracts expiring in 2016.

Earlier this week, Superintendent Michael Delahanty asked the School Board whether the district should enter into negotiations for a contract extension or put the transportation contract out to bid.

The board agreed that the district could enter into negotiations for the extension, but with the understanding that the extension be for no more than two years in case the district were to explore regional transportation options in 2016.“I’m very pleased with the service First Student provides to us,” said Delahanty. “It’s not without its problems, but no contract of this magnitude would be without its problems. We have a number of drivers who have been very loyal to our district and have been very good to our students and their parents over many years.”

Delahanty said he preferred the opportunity to negotiate an extension with First Student, but understood that there might be some benefits to putting the contract out to bid. Playing into the preference for the extension were recent discussions with some surrounding school districts.“There might be an opportunity there if we negotiate an extension to limit it to two years and then negotiate some kind of regional opportunity during the 2015-16 school year,” said Delahanty. “I don’t think it’s something we’ve explored in the past, but it might something that is of benefit to all of us.”

School Board member Michael Carney said typically he would like to see large contracts put out to bid on a regular cycle but would support negotiations for a contract extension as long as it was for no more than two years.“I’d be very interested in exploring that regional compact, but it is something we have to start talking about next year,” said Carney.Board member Peter Morgan said he also supported the extension talks as long as it was for only two years. If First Student wanted a longer extension, Morgan recommended putting the contract out to bid.

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