Changes to how special education students in Forest Park are bused to out-of-district locales could shave more than $40,000 off transportation costs, according to officials. The greatest portion of those savings is expected to come from not paying independent contractors to transport students with special needs out of Forest Park. By bringing the responsibility in-house, District 91 Business Manager Ed Brophy said the schools will save $30,000 annually.

According to Superintendent Lou Cavallo, cutting transportation costs in Forest Park has been a priority since he took office approximately one year ago. In fiscal year 2006 the district levied for more than $330,000 in this fund. For 2007, the transportation budget shrunk to roughly $282,000.

District 91 has four campuses in a town of roughly two-square miles. Of the approximately 1,000 students in the district, fewer than 40 ride the bus. Only 15 students are expected to be bused to schools within Forest Park in the coming school year, according to Brophy. An estimated 18 special education students will be transported out of the district on a daily basis, he said.

Also projected as a cost-saving measure, the district will no longer hire bus aides to ride with special education students if that aide’s presence is not mandated by a student’s Individual Education Plan.

“They get picked up at their homes, and that’s not changing,” Brophy said. “What is changing is we’re not going to have bus aides unless there’s an IEP that requires that.”

Traditionally, Forest Park has provided aides as a courtesy, according to Cavallo.

With enrollment expected to shrink in the coming years, District 91 is moving away from its “class balancing” practice that often required busing students across town. Long term, administrators expect that with more students staying within their attendance area there will be further reductions to the transportation budget.