Education

Belleville school district hires drivers, inspects buses for next year

New school buses are parked on the Belleville West parking lot. Beginning next school year, Belleville District 201 will run its own school bus services for Belleville East, Belleville West and the elementary schools in the district’s boundaries.
New school buses are parked on the Belleville West parking lot. Beginning next school year, Belleville District 201 will run its own school bus services for Belleville East, Belleville West and the elementary schools in the district’s boundaries. dholtmann@bnd.com

Belleville District 201 has been busy preparing for the 2017-18 school year, when it will begin busing area students to and from school in an effort to cut transportation costs.

School buses have recently taken up residence at Belleville West High School, where Assistant Superintendent Brian Mentzer said they are being inspected. And on Monday night, the District 201 School Board hired 195 new employees who will drive those buses next year.

After this summer, District 201 will no longer be paying a private company to transport its students. Its contract with First Student, Inc., ends July 31.

The high school district made moves to take over bus services back in April, including offering an agreement to seven elementary school districts within District 201’s boundaries to begin paying District 201 for busing on a per-route basis.

Those districts included Belleville 118, High Mount 116, Wolf Branch 113, Pontiac 105, Belle Valley 119, Grant 110 and Whiteside 115. District 118 agreed to shoulder more costs than the other school districts in the agreement because of its size, but it ultimately expects to save an estimated $420,000 per year.

District 201 is projecting its savings will be between $400,000 and $500,000 per year after it takes on new costs initially to purchase the school buses and a facility at which to store them. Mentzer said those are the two largest expenses in the endeavor.

In May, the district agreed to an eight-year lease purchase agreement for the 216 school buses it will need. The cost is about $10.8 million, of which District 118 agreed to reimburse about $2.5 million.

District officials have also been negotiating the sale of the property at 2012 Mascoutah Ave. in Belleville, which is currently a First Student transportation facility, since the school board allowed it in March.

The district expects to pay between $2.1 million and $2.5 million for the facility. But officials are still waiting for the results of an appraisal before bringing a purchase agreement to the school board for a vote.

Currently, Mentzer said District 201 is about $1.1 million under budget for transportation. “So those numbers are good,” he said.

Fee increases

During its meeting Monday, the school board approved a 10-cent increase in meal fees, which Superintendent Jeff Dosier said is based on a formula from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Starting next school year, the following will be the breakfast and lunch prices at Belleville East High School and Belleville West High School:

▪  Student breakfast: $1.70

▪  Student type “A” lunch: $2.70

▪  Adult breakfast: $2.20

▪  Adult type “A” lunch: $3.20

New employees

In addition to the 195 school bus drivers, the board hired a number of other employees to fill positions vacated by retirements or resignations, including a new associate principal for Belleville East: Marshaun Warren.

Six teachers were also hired to start working next school year, including:

▪  Meghan DeGroot as a business teacher

▪  Tiffany Droege as an instructional technology teacher and librarian

▪  William “Rob” Garrison as a social studies teacher

▪  Amanda Kemezys as a math teacher

▪  Eric McCrary as an individualized education teacher, pending licensure

▪  Douglas Schieppe as a science teacher

Two more teachers were moved to full-time starting in the 2017-18 school year: English teacher Danielle Daniels and science teacher Jayna Spillan. To replace them, the board hired a pair of new part-time employees: English teacher Kelcie Comley and science teacher Kristina Moran.

Board vacancy

During the school board meeting, Dosier announced that board member Allison Bartle was resigning.

“We certainly appreciate all you did,” Dosier said of Bartle.

Her job is transferring her out of state. “It’s sad. I’m very sad,” Bartle said of leaving.

She left the district office Monday night with a plaque in recognition of her years serving as board president, from 2015 to 2017.

Individuals who would like to apply for the board vacancy can submit a letter of interest and resume to the board secretary by 12 p.m. June 26 at 920 N. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62220. The appointed board member will serve until April 2019.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

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