Belleville district still negotiating on future school bus service options

On Monday night, Belleville District 201 officials told the school board they were still negotiating on possible changes to the district’s school bus services.

The district’s current transportation contract is coming to an end, so it has been exploring three options: extending that contract, offering the service itself or hearing proposals from other companies.

Last month, Assistant Superintendent Brian Mentzer said the district asked its transportation provider, First Student, Inc., for a proposal for a one-year extension of its current contract.

“Negotiations continue with First Student on a daily basis,” he said on Monday.

The district has also been working on the cost estimates of offering the service itself instead of contracting with a bus company, which would involve purchasing buses and employing drivers. Belleville District 118 Superintendent Matt Klosterman has said the two Belleville districts talked about joining forces to offer bus services. Both districts currently have a joint contract with First Student.

During its meeting Monday, the District 201 School Board approved a letter of intent to buy or lease the property at 2012 Mascoutah Ave. in Belleville, which is currently a First Student transportation facility. Mentzer said the letter doesn’t require the district to do anything, but it does allow school officials to negotiate the sale of the property with its current owner.

Superintendent Jeff Dosier said it gives the district more insight into its options.

“We don’t want to close any doors,” he said.

Kurt Schroeder, vice president of the board, abstained from the vote on the letter.

District 201 could have also asked for proposals from other transportation companies, but Mentzer said district officials haven’t pursued that route so far.

School board members have not yet been asked to make a final decision on any of the options for transportation services.

District finances

In other business, the board voted on several financial moves.

Board members approved the first step toward issuing $2.5 million in working cash bonds. This year, Mentzer said the district will be paying off $3.5 million in bond debt, which means “we will have $1 million less in (working cash) debt at the end of the year.”

District 201 is also pursuing a refunding of its 2007 bonds to take advantage of current interest rates; Mentzer said that will result in about $1.2 million in savings for the district. The 2007 bonds were issued to build Belleville West High School and to renovate Belleville East High School.

In another vote, the board approved establishing a line of credit. Mentzer said it’s something the district has done for at least the last three years. The line of credit is a “safety net for the district” in case there is a hold on some revenue sources that are normally consistent, such as money from the state, for example.

Last year, “it allowed us to account for outstanding revenues at the end of the year,” Mentzer said.

Schroeder also abstained from the vote on the line of credit.

Students, staff recognition

Belleville East Principal Jason Karstens recognized three students who received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for service to their community:

▪  LaMyeia Daniels, who is involved in the YMCA Leaders Club, MDT Children’s Church, Community Day and Puritans.

▪  Alissa Donato, who is the St. Teresa Youth Group President, a member of the St. Clair County Youth Board and volunteer with Interfaith Food Pantry and St. Vincent DePaul Food Bus.

▪  Neil Wegrzyn, who is an Eagle Scout and volunteer with the Memorial Hospital Transport Department.

Karstens also recognized Karen Mudd-Osborn, who has been a physical education and health teacher for almost 20 years in District 201. He said Mudd-Osborn has a talent for recognizing students who need extra help or guidance.

Belleville West Principal Rich Mertens also recognized a veteran teacher. Andy Brunner has been an English teacher for the past 16 years. Mertens said Brunner inspires his students to try new books or new genres. Brunner has his own classroom library, which Mertens said has grown to cover almost the entire back wall of the room.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes