FOXBURG - Between students not attending school due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and a dwindling student population, A-C Valley's bus contractors are feeling the economic pinch and a group of bus contractors voiced their concerns to the school board Sept. 21.

The bus contractors present at the meeting were Lynette Bobbert, Brenda Bailey, Jennifer Callender, Janie Cook, Cindy Maihle and Marcia Pollock.

Bobbert was the spokesperson for the group of contractors and stated the lack of school children on the bus routes and no guarantee on the number of school days gives her cause for concern.

"Your bus contractors are in trouble," Bobbert said to the board during the public comment portion of the meeting. "Due to drastic drops in enrollment, our contracts have taken a big hit this year. You have a couple of contractors out there ready to hang it up because they can't make any money doing this.

"We haven't received a raise in years and we have been bleeding money out the last 10 years. We get a 1- or 2-percent raise on our cost index and we lose two or three kids off of our roster and that is the end of our raise."

Bobbert estimates the loss is $200 to $300 per student when students are removed from her route.

Due to COVID-19, many more students have been taking part in distance learning and cyber school. Those students who are not taking part in in-person learning are not counted as bus-able students.

The bus contractors should get some relief as the A-C Valley school board voted to discontinue the distance learning program but the issue of guaranteed days for the contractors is still up for debate.

‘The way our contracts are now written is we get paid X amount of dollars if we drive," Bobbert said. If we don't drive, we don't get paid. We already lost three days so far this year because there are only 174 school days this year and we usually get paid for 177."

Bobbert also pointed out that the district's plan to make up as many as five snow days via distance learning would cost the contractors as well.

"If you lose five days of pay on top of the three days we have already lost, you are talking thousands of dollars lost," Bobbert said.

A-C Valley Elementary Principal and Transportation Director Lori Sherman did an audit of the bus routes and what the bus contractors would have received if there was no pandemic. The difference between income from the actual contract and the estimated contract was around $30,000.

The board decided table the vote to approve the estimated contract until the October meeting.

The board is expected to pass the measure and retroactively approve the guaranteed contract.

The board voiced a concern regarding the additional $30,000 being added on to the district's existing debt but McDeavitt reminded the board that Pennsylvania reimburses school districts roughly 80 cents on the dollar for transportation costs.

The issue of guaranteed days and guaranteed students is not written into future A-C Valley budgets.

A-C Valley Superintendent David McDeavitt suggested the district's finance committee could look into working with the contractors on creating a long-term fix for the bus contracts.

In other business, the board:

4Approved accepting a donation of $500 from Woodmen Life Chapter 696 of Clarion for needed supplies. The donation is to be distributed equally between the high school and elementary school.

4Approved the sale by the Butler County Tax Claim Bureau of property at 232 Sandy Pointe Rd. in Allegheny Township, Butler County for the sum of $1,259.

4Approved the agreement for provision of special education and certain related services between the Allegheny-Clarion Valley School District and the Redbank Valley School District effective July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

4Approved paying Julie Raybuck the per diem wage of $386.89 for the extra 14.20 days worked outside of her contractual agreement enrolling students into the ACV Cyber Program for the 2020-2021 school year in the amount of $5,541.27.

4Approved the Seamless Summer Option and Summer Food Service Program into the 2020-2021 school year.

4Approved the amount of $10 per hour to be paid to one-on-one aide substitutes and secretarial substitutes.

4Approved the independent contractor agreements with Lauren Judge, Sarah Thompson and Tiffany Lingenfelter for psychological services to assist with report writing.

4Approved Jerred Heuer, Rachel Brosnahan and Sara Buzard as volunteers for the school community garden through the Blue Print group for the 2020-2021 school year pending receipt of all appropriate documentation.

4Approved Bob Bowser as volunteer for the varsity football and boys' golf team for the 2020-2021 school year pending receipt of all appropriate documentation.

4Approved Cullen McNany as a volunteer with the varsity football team for the 2020-2021 school year pending receipt of all appropriate documentation.

4Approved Stacey Fox as a volunteer with the junior high and varsity cheerleaders for the 2020-2021 school year pending receipt of all appropriate documentation.

4Approved Richard "Buddy" Merwin as a volunteer with the varsity football team for the 2020-2021 school year pending receipt of all appropriate documentation.

4Approved Gavin Guntrum as a volunteer with the junior high football team for the 2020-2021 school year pending receipt of all appropriate documentation.

4Approved John "Dewey" Irwin as a volunteer with the junior varsity/varsity boys' basketball teams for the 2020-2021 school year pending receipt of all appropriate documentation.

4Approved the request from Mike Weigle to continue as a volunteer with the varsity baseball team for the 2020-2021 school year.

4Accepted with regret the letter of intent to retire from reading specialist Carol Cotherman.

4Approved the use of the high school gymnasium and cafeteria for a homecoming dance on Oct. 24.

4Approved the application for flexible instruction days for implementation in the 2020-2021 school year which will enable the district to use up to five days each year for distance learning due to emergencies such as inclement weather, water outages, power outages and natural disasters which would compromise the safety of students and staff.

4Approved the extracurricular activities transportation contracts between the district and Bobbert Busing, Inc., Stanley A. Bailey, Jennifer Callender D/B/A Callender Transportation and Martha Jane Cook dated Aug. 1, 2020.

4Approved the Clarion County Career Center transportation contracts between the district and Bobbert Busing, Inc. and Bailey Busing Company dated Aug. 26, 2020.

4Approved the van contracts with Michele Eiler, Pam Myers Transportation, Inc., McLendon Transportation System, Inc., Randy McLendon, Inc., Lois Orton and Kelly Stevanus dated July 1, 2020.

4Approved the request from Pam Myers Transportation, Inc. to add Cortney Chalmers as a driver pending receipt of all appropriate documentation and an interview with the administration.

4Approved the request of McLendon Transportation System, Inc. to add Ralph Emery as a driver.

4Approved the following substitutes for the 2020-2021 school year pending receipt of all appropriate documentation: Lee Ann Campbell, secondary English; Brittany Stocklin, aide/secretarial, Cortney Chalmers, aide/ cafeteria/secretarial; Sara Buzard, aide.