By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBS11) – Like it or not, Dallas ISD is now in the school bus business.

During a briefing Thursday, school district staffers told board trustees the best way to make sure students get to school safely and on time is to run the buses themselves.

“There’s lot of upsides,” says the district’s Deputy Superintendent of Operations Scott Layne. “There will be better control. Better accountability. They will be our employees. When parents call we can deal directly with the employees rather than with a service. We’ll have better customer service, better communication with our stakeholders. I see many advantages.”

Layne says district staffers are already working with Dallas County Schools to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

Earlier this month, voters decided to dissolve Dallas County Schools,  a 90-year-old agency that provides transportation and other services to DISD and several other North Texas districts. The agency could not recover from a series of scandals involving questionable business decisions and the avalanche and bad publicity that followed.

Now, DISD staffers are in a race to take over the service, with Layne telling board trustees, “There’s many, many things that have to take place in a very short period of time: procurement, bids, gas, parts, technology.”

But, Layne is hoping DISD won’t have to worry about support staff. The plan is to hire the DCS drivers and mechanics who would perhaps otherwise be out of jobs when the agency is dissolved. Those employees will have to reapply with DISD, but will be given priority in the hiring process and won’t have to take pay cuts.

“What happened was not their fault, says Layne. “We want to get the message out that we want those employees that work at those service centers that continue to provide transportation services for our kids. Our number one goal is to make sure we have safe transportation services at the most cost effective price for our students and our parents.”

Ultimately, district staffers say they that they will be able to provide bus service for less than the cost of contracting out to DCS. But, they also know there is a lot of work and worry ahead– including bringing on some 1,100 employees by the end of the school year. The plan is to have the bus system operating in house before the start of summer school.

“We believe, in time, we will be able to run it more effectively,” says Layne.

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