Spencer school board members on Tuesday evening gave transportation director Julie Nemmers the green light to solicit bids for a new school bus for the district's regular routes.
Nemmers had also requested a special-needs bus.
"We really have the need for two buses," Superintendent Terry Hemann said. "I think we both understand the reality that two buses is quite the request."
The average age of the district's 16-bus fleet is 9 years old. The new bus -- funded by the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy -- is expected to cost between $80,000 and $90,000 and will allow the district to sell its oldest bus, which is 16 years old and used on a substitute basis. A special needs bus, with a similar price tag, would have been funded using state sales tax funds.
"As far as a special needs bus, that bus is strictly set up for special needs with harness seats, a wheelchair lift and spaces for wheelchairs," Nemmers said. "We have a real need for that in our district. ... The students we can't transport, we pay RIDES to do so. By putting another route on, it would reduce the time our students are on the bus while making it more efficient."
Currently, the district has four students using wheelchairs, but the primary special needs bus has spaces for only three wheelchairs, in addition to 44 students. A backup bus is 15 years old.
"Some of the special needs students do a shortened day, so we would be able to run another route to make that work," Nemmers said. "We would probably still use RIDES for students we bring in from other districts."
Board member Dean Mechler asked if a special needs bus was needed for the remainder of the year. Nemmers said it would not be needed until next year, but ordering a bus takes 120 days.
"We've got a lot of irons in the fire hitting PPEL pretty hard," Mechler said. "I'm just trying to get a feel for stretching this dollar a little bit."
Nemmers will return to the board toward the end of the school year with more information about a special needs bus, in hopes of being able to draw up two special needs routes over the summer.
* Learned the Department of Education will have a phone hearing at 9 a.m. Feb. 9, regarding an appeal to the district's approval of grade-alike structure.
* Congratulated Athletic Director Roger Johnson for being the 2012 Northwest District High School AD of the Year.
* Learned that Hemann has asked the Spencer School Foundation for a $15,000 grant for 30 Google Chromebooks to be used in the high school.