Mount Greylock District Takes First-Year 'Hit' in New Bus Contract
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee on Monday OK'd a three-year contract with Dufour Tours to continue to provide transportation services for the three-school district.
On a vote of 5-0 with Christina Conry and Jose Constantine unable to make the start of the special afternoon session, the committee ratified a deal with an 8 percent increase for fiscal 2023 over the rate paid in the 12-month period that ends on Thursday.
"But it does stay flat in years two and three," Business Administrator Joe Bergeron told the committee. "We take our lump in year one. But most of the contracts we're seeing have things like 5-5-5 [percent increases each year].
"Mathematically, it works out in our favor to take the 8 percent and hold it steady."
There is a caveat.
The transportation cost could go even higher if the cost of diesel fuel continues to rise during the life of the contract.
Bergeron explained that such contracts generally have an escalation clause to account for fluctuations in the cost of fuel.
If, during the contract period, the price of fuel changes significantly — up or down — the bus company or the district can seek a change to the monthly bill.
As has been the case for years in the Lanesborough-Williamstown schools, Hinsdale-based Dufour Tours was the only respondent to the district's request for proposals for transportation services.
As part of the district's negotiation with the carrier, it discussed how the contract might be affected if the preK-12 district changes the bell schedules at its three schools.
For years, there has been talk in the district of starting the middle/high school day later and the days at the two elementary schools earlier — the reverse of the current arrangement, a model that is followed in most of the commonwealth.
Those discussions this past year were pursued by the Student Council at Mount Greylock, which is studying the question and talking about it with peers in the county.
Studies indicate that earlier start times are disadvantageous to adolescents, whereas elementary school-aged children are more natural early risers.
But school officials have acknowledged the wide-ranging impacts of such a flip on, among other things, child-care needs and extra-curricular activities at the high school.
School Committee member Carolyn Greene asked Superintendent Jason McCandless whether a three-year contract with the current start times locks in that schedule until at least the 2025-26 school year.
McCandless' answer? Not necessarily.
"If we were to move forward and make a change in the start time for any and all of our three schools, that is something we could sit down and work out [with Dufour]," he said. "I think it's easiest when you're at a natural break point moving from contract to contract."
And that is why he chose to go with a three-year deal instead of a five-year deal.
"But we should be able to sit down and figure this out moving into year two or year three if that's where we are," McCandless said.