RACINE — Durham School Services, Racine Unified School District’s lame-duck transportation company, has informed the state of the future layoff of 211 employees, starting July 31.
On April 1, the Racine Unified School Board voted 8-0 to drop Durham, which has been the district’s busing provider for more than 20 years, and instead hire First Student of Cincinnati.
In accordance with state law, Durham, 1608 Oakes Road, filed a Wisconsin Business Closing and Mass Layoff notice of the future layoffs. The positions affected are 211 driver/monitors, 10 shop personnel and 10 office/administrative staff.
However, Mark Duff, Unified’s chief financial officer, has said First Student intends to hire as many of the Durham employees who currently drive for the district as possible. First Student did not respond to a Journal Times’ request for information about the hiring process on Wednesday.
As of early April, RUSD was in contract negotiations with First Student to begin providing transportation services for its pupils starting in August.
Unified has contracted with Durham since 1998. Its current five-year contract with the district will end July 31. The contract with First Student is set to run from Aug. 1 through July 31, 2024.
The district put out a request for proposals for student transportation in January, and received responses from four companies including Durham and First Student. First Student had the highest score on the district’s rating system, while Durham had the lowest.
Durham is a subsidiary of National Express LLC, which in turn is the North American subsidiary of National Express Group, PLC, one of the largest transportation firms in the United Kingdom.
Unified’s estimated cost of pupil transportation exceeds $8.1 million annually. Starting in 2019-20, the cost from First Student is estimated to exceed $9.2 million.
Duff told the board on April 1 that Unified needed to get the contract finalized so that First Student, which has a bus depot in Kenosha, could begin ordering buses and hiring drivers ahead of the 2019-20 school year.
The district leases the property, south of Case High School, where the buses are kept, and the lease would need to be renegotiated as well, Duff said.