RCAPS Board approves leasing fleet of buses

REED CITY — When fall rolls around again, Reed City Area Public Schools students will return to class with a lot of new things — new grade levels, new teachers and new buses as the RCAPS Board of Education approved leasing its fleet next year.

Paul Lewis, Facilities and Transportation director, gave board members different options to deal with the aging fleet, including a two-year lease on 15 buses to replace most of the fleet.

The second option would be leasing eight buses to replace the worst buses. RCAPS currently has 21 buses and will keep those in the best shape as backup or for athletic events. Lewis was in favor of the first option.

“The buses would always be under warranty. They would always pass police inspection. The kids are safer in them,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to replace the tires or the brakes.”

The lease would come with an approximately $90,000 price tag.

“If we keep the current fleet we have, we are going to have to pay someone a lot of money to fix the buses,” said Jesse Kailing, board president. “The two schools I’ve talked to that do this, Hesperia Community Schools and Morley Stanwood Community Schools, have not regretted leasing.”

Board members discussed the pros and cons of leasing to replace the majority of their buses.

“It scares me to get rid of our fleet and not know what’s coming in two years,” said Tricia Wirth, board secretary.

Board members agreed one of the biggest setbacks to the first option is doing away with the fleet to rely solely on leased buses. Wirth noted if the school loses students, and therefore funding, the board would still need to pay for the lease.

“It scares me as well,” said Kim Johnson, board vice president. “But we need to think about the safety of our kids.”

Some buses in the fleet are still mechanically sound, though Lewis said they would fail an inspection due to rust, while others are getting old and may break down.

“We have to scramble almost daily to get kids back and forth,” Lewis said.

Board members voted 4-2 in favor of leasing the buses with trustees Derrick Bookwalter and Craig Goodman the dissenting votes.

In other transportation business, board members approved spending up to $130,000 for two used handicap buses.

In other business, board members:

• Approved the eighth-grade field trip to Cedar Point next month;

• Discussed the renewing the school’s non-homestead millage; and

• Discussed filling a position on the board left by member Jason Proefrock, who resigned.