A: The May 2018 ballot includes $488,740 proposition to purchase one 72-passenger school bus and three 42-passenger wheelchair buses. If approved, it would allow the district to replace four aging buses and maintain a 10-year replacement cycle. The bus replacement plan is based on the typical lifespan of a school bus. It helps the district avoid steep increases in repair costs when warranties run out and rust erosion becomes an issue. The clean diesel technology in newer buses also helps keep emissions near zero.
Q: What is the total local cost of the 2018 bus purchase proposition?
A: The May 2018 ballot includes $488,740 proposition to purchase four buses. State transportation aid would cover 65 percent of the principal and interest costs over the five-year finance period. When combined with trade-in savings, the total local cost for the proposition is $171,000.
Q: Why is the district borrowing money to purchase buses instead of paying for them outright?
A: Purchasing buses by bond, through a bus proposition, instead of outright as a cash purchase allows the district to leverage its money to purchase more buses sooner than otherwise possible. That helps the district maintain a 10-year bus replacement cycle and the safety of its bus fleet.
Q: How many buses does the district use to transport students?
A: The Transportation Department regularly evaluates its transportation routes for increased efficiency. The district meets its transportation obligations with a fleet of 42 full-size buses, eight mid-size buses (for students with special needs who attend a district school) and three Suburbans (for students with special needs who attend out-of-district programs). Of those vehicles, some are used for the daily triple-trip transportation runs that cover all four school buildings. Some are also used for after school “late” runs, sports trips or for runs to BOCES or private schools. At any given time, several vehicles may be out of service for regularly scheduled maintenance, Department of Transportation inspections or minor repairs.
Q: Why do I see empty buses driving around the community?
A: Transportation routing and student load counts are determined by bell times, travel time and student demographics. Queensbury uses a triple-trip system to bus students to and from school. The first run is for high school students, the second run is for middle school and WHBI students, and the third run is for elementary school students. Within these parameters, the Transportation Department strives to put the maximum amount of students on each bus. Buses may be empty or only partially loaded depending on where the bus is on its route. For example, if a bus has just completed a run at the high school in the morning, it will be empty until it makes the first stop on its second run.
Q: Why does the bus drive down my street multiple times in a morning or afternoon?
A: Queensbury uses a triple-trip system to bus students to and from school, which results in three separate bus runs in the morning and in the afternoon. The single-campus setting and staggered start times for each building allow the district to take advantage of cost savings that result from needing fewer buses and drivers in comparison to a single-trip system, which would require all students to be bused at the same time.
Q: Can parents opt-out of transportation?
A: Parents can let the district know that their student does not need transportation, and students of legal driving age can choose not to ride the bus. However, the district is obligated by law to have a bus seat available for all students who are eligible to ride. A 2011 law allows a school board to decide to reduce the number of seats under certain conditions. Under current Board of Education policy #8411, all students in grades K-5 shall be transported, and shall not walk more than .50 miles to a pick up or drop off point. All students in grades 6-12 residing greater than .50 miles from the school will be transported, and shall not walk more than .50 miles to a pick up or drop off point.
Q: Does a bus driver have to transport student-athletes to and from games? Could parents be required to transport kids or could coaches drive the buses instead?
A: A school district must provide transportation to certain students because of the distance between their homes and the schools they legally attend, but a district is not required to provide late buses (Education Law §3635). In Queensbury, the Board of Education has elected to provide late buses to permit students to participate in additional school-sponsored activities after the end of regular classes. This helps avoid a situation in which a students’ economic situation would prevent him or her from participating in school-sponsored activities. If the district provides transportation on a school-owned bus, that bus must be operated by a properly licensed and authorized bus driver. No coaches currently meet this requirement.
Q: How does the district decide which buses to buy?
A: Bus purchases are made through state contracts, and the decisions are based on accommodating the needs of the student population. One consideration is the options available on a bus to address students’ needs. Some examples of options include storage for sports equipment on trips, digital video cameras for managing student safety and two-way radios for communications. In the case of the special needs student population, options may include floor plans to accommodate students who require wheel chairs or air conditioning. Another consideration is the customer service aspect of the model: Does it offer a reasonable warranty? Does it offer training for the mechanics? Will parts be available when the district needs them? Districts can also standardize a fleet, which saves on inventory.
A Queensbury school bus is a reliable mode of transportation that gets students to school on time. The NYS Department of Transportation has rated the district’s transportation maintenance program among the best in the state, citing an in-service rate greater than 90 percent for district buses. Students also are nearly eight times safer riding in a school bus than in cars with their parents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.