Students to Ride in Style: AISD Spends $900K on New Transit Buses

Every time students at the Abilene Independent School District have to take a trip out of town, a charter bus is typically called in -- until now.

"Whether it's UIL, football, band, orchestra, choir, athletics, we are on the road constantly," said Rodney Murphy, AISD's Transportation Director.

The change comes after the district purchased half a dozen Blue Bird Multi-Function School Activity transit buses, costing $150,000 a piece.

"We can use these and reduce the cost to students, like when they're taking a trip, and in our budget, as well," said Jay Lester, AISD's Director of Fine Arts.

According to school officials, over the past six years, AISD has spent an average of $200,000 annually on chartering buses.

The new purchase will save the district approximately $100,000 a year, according to Murphy.

Since there isn't a charter company in Abilene any longer, oftentimes, the buses have to drive in from Midland or Fort Worth.

"So you have to pay for the bus to get here before you can start your trip," Lester said.

So what's taken so long to turn the key on these new ones?

"You have to remember, transportation is in the same competition as textbooks," Murphy explained.

The funding for these new buses comes from a surprise jump in revenue last year -- a federal source of revenue related to serving military dependents, according to Scott McLean, AISD's Associate Superintendent of Operations.

"So you try to take advantage of that by purchasing things that aren't recurring in nature. The estimated life for these is about 12 to 15 years," McLean.

And during that time, the kids will be traveling in style -- emblazoned with the district's logo on the outside, each bus comes equipped with DVD screens, electrical outlets, and vaulted air vents on the inside.

A big investment the district hopes will pay off on the long road ahead.

Since the district just has six new transit buses, they will continue to use some charter services as needed. They will also continue to use the yellow buses for in-town travel.

Two of the buses have already arrived at the district's bus barn and will take their first trip on Friday.

The remaining four should arrive and be in use by the end of the month.

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