JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – The Campbell County Board of Education met in a workshop session Tuesday afternoon to tackle one unresolved question concerning the upcoming school year – whether to extend the current contract with bus owners that calls for full payment in the case of school closures.
The bus contract for the past year continued full payments to bus owners during the two months that schools were closed, following a clause that was intended to cover temporary school closures for weather or flu outbreaks, but obviously did not anticipate a lengthy closure such as the one this past spring.
Under the contract terms, bus owners receive $1.88 per mile for gas and mileage, another $22.50 for each seat and a standard $500 fuel supplement to cover increased gasoline costs. The just-approved school budget includes a total of $1,190,000 for bus transportation to cover 33 bus routes for 180 school days, Campbell County Director of Schools Jennifer Fields explained.
About a dozen bus owners and drivers attended the workshop to plead their case for keeping the contract unchanged. They pointed out that buses were still utilized during the shutdown to deliver meals to students who qualified for free and reduced meals. Fields said that the school system served roughly 440,000 meals since the March shut-down.
“Do you continue to pay the drivers?” school board member Noah Smith asked, with one owner responding, “Every single one.” Another owner pointed out, “If we fail to pay our drivers, we will lose them. Then we wouldn’t be able to cover the routes when school resumes.”
Several board members expressed support for keeping the contract closure provisions intact, while others agreed but felt that the new contract should spell out in writing that if regular bus service is discontinued due to closure, bus owners would agree to provide their buses for delivery service or whatever needs the school system might have.
Board chairman Brent Lester contacted attorney Dail Cantrell, who said that he could draw up the precise wording for the contract in time for the board to vote on a new contract at a called emergency meeting at 5 pm on Thursday in order to have it approved by both board and bus owners before the start of school on Aug. 5. That meeting will again be held at the central office board room. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 07/29/2020-6AM)