Wednesday's cold, rainy morning was busy as usual for Dallas ISD and all of its students who take buses to get to school. But the nine school districts that receive bus service from Dallas County Schools will have to find new transportation after voters' Tuesday night decision to shut down the transportation agency.
Starting next week, a dissolution committee will begin meeting to decide how to wind down DCS and distribute its assets. For now, however, the agency still has to get get kids to school across Dallas County.
"Everybody did a great job this morning," DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said Wednesday. "I'm very proud of the DCS employees for doing the right thing. I'm very proud of [DCS] for stepping up and making sure this transition began in an orderly way."
Later this week, the Texas comptroller will appoint a dissolution committee that will meet for the first time Wednesday. The first order of business for the committee, Hinojosa said, will be selecting a CEO to run the agency for the rest of the school year. Next, the committee will set up a series of public meetings so districts can get input from their communities about how they should transport kids once DCS stops providing service at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
"Early next year, districts will have to decide whether they want to outsource this very important service that we all depend on, whether they're going to develop their own, or maybe a hybrid where a number of the districts go in together in a cooperative arrangement to provide those services to their community," Hinojosa said.
Once those decisions are made — DISD clearly planning to provide its own bus service to its 160,000 students — the new CEO will make recommendations to the committee about how to split up DCS assets among the districts.
DCS is DISD's third-biggest vendor. The district sending the agency about $54 million each year to transport kids to and from school, extracurricular activities and field trips. Initially, Hinojosa said, DISD could spend more than that to bring transportation services in house, but the superintendent expects those costs to go down as the district builds up its bus infrastructure.
"I think the taxpayers will be pleased, eventually," Hinojosa said. "There will be some one-time costs. For example, if you're going to have your own system, you're going to have to have a bus barn. ... We think that eventually, after the one-time costs are handled, the taxpayers are going to be better off."
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While the superintendent declined to put a number on what it might cost DISD to break away from DCS, he said those numbers will be available later this month after they're presented to the DISD Board of Trustees. The other wild card, Hinojosa said, are the DCS buses assigned to DISD. The more buses the agency owns, the more that can be handed over to DISD, making it cheaper for the district to provide its own transportation services will be. Without the free buses, DISD couldn't have broken away from DCS, he said.
"We know that we couldn't have done this on our own, without the voters," Hinojosa said.
On Wednesday afternoon at City Hall, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who supported dumping DCS, said he has faith that Hinojosa will successfully navigate the transition.
"I'm pleased that we put it back with the school districts," Rawlings said, "and I think a more efficient, safer system will be created."