The Cambridge School District was already dealing with a sudden COVID-19 shutdown.
At a school board meeting March 23, held via video conference, the School Board additionally grappled with how much to pay laid off bus drivers.
Cambridge students are bused by Go Riteway, a Wisconsin-based bus company with a bus lot in Cambridge. The district has a contract with the company for the 2019-20 school year. It’s a ten-year contract running from 2018 to 2028.
Go Riteway has approached the district about a contract addendum, trying to work out payment of the contract for this year.
While no students are currently being driven to and from school because of COVID-19, Go Riteway is trying to continue paying its employees during the closures. In a letter to the Cambridge School District, Go Riteway said it had laid off staff in light of the closure.
Go Riteway is trying to adjust contracts with school districts like Cambridge to support its employees, said Superintendent Bernie Nikolay.
Nikolay added that there is a concern that when schools reopen, bus companies like Go Riteway may be short on drivers.
Business manager Mark Worthing said that the current bus contract requires the district to pay 60 percent of Go Riteways regular routes in a situation like this, for less than 172 days of busing.
Regular routes include the morning and afternoon routes Go Riteway drives to drop off students.
In the contract addendum, Go Riteway requested Cambridge pay 100 percent of those regular routes and special education routes the company usually drives.
The district is still saving money on busing while the schools are closed, Worthing said. Cambridge is not paying Go Riteway for fuel costs, extra-curricular or sports routes and midday special education routes. These are all things the district pays Go Riteway for normally.
The district will save between $55,800 and $118,800 depending on how the addendum moves forward.
Go Riteway asked for about $157,000 in payment for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. The company reduced the average daily rate to about $3,000.
School Board members weighed how much the district should pay for busing, in order to support local members of the workforce.
Board treasurer Mike Huffman asked about making sure that the amount the district pays goes to local drivers.
And Board member Courtney Reed Jenkins asked administrators to get more information from Go Riteway about employee needs and layoffs, before making a decision.
The School Board also extended its plans to pay employees during the closure through June 4, or until the schools reopen.
The board will revisit employee pay at the May 18 board meeting.
Staff are being paid “if they are available to work and meet the work expectations,” the resolution said. Work expectations, which happen either in person or virtually, vary depending on the role.
The School Board also updated a policy to allow members to meet virtually in both open and closed sessions during public health crises. Board members tuning into meetings virtually count towards a quarum, the new policy says.