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March 30. 2014 8:05PM

Nashua school board to debate busing contracts

NASHUA — The Board of Education meets tonight at 7 at Nashua High School North and at the top of the agenda is a new busing contract, one of the items that has contributed to the million dollar-plus gap between the district's 2015 budget proposal and the $99 million they city has put on the table to fund the schools next year.

The board will consider two contract proposals from First Student, a Cincinnati-based company that provides busing for Nashua for $4.6 million a year, and Student Transportation of America, a publicly traded company based in New Jersey.

With First Student, next year's busing costs will increase to $5.1 million and the total amount for a five-year contract will be $28.4 million.

Student Transportation of America submitted a bid that will raise the 2015 cost of busing to $5.4 million and cost the district $28.5 million over five years. STA is offering a 10-year lease-to-buy contract for a fleet of 98 propane-powered buses.

"The City of Nashua would purchase the buses, so we would own the buses," Chief Financial Officer Daniel Donovan told members of the Finance and Operations Committee earlier this month.

While Donovan said there would be some tax advantages with the STA contract, he also said he had some concerns about owning and maintaining an older fleet of buses, particularly propane buses.

"The reality is that not a lot of people around here have propane buses. They're fairly new, so we don't know if a 10–year-old propane bus would be better or worse," he said.

The Finance and Operations Committee is recommending that the board accept the bid from First Student.

The board will also vote on recommendations to spend $43,260 on design fees for a new roof for Dr. Crisp Elementary school, $13,000 on professional development related to the new teacher evaluation program and $59,942 for new eighth-grade social studies books, "Discovering Our Past/A History of the United States — Early Years," published by McGraw-Hill.

The board will also discuss the new high school E-Block, a scheduling change slated to begin next year. E-Block will build 35 minutes of flexible time into each school day that students can use to receive help from teachers, make up credits and participate in different enrichment programs and activities.


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