Supt. Nettie Collins-Hart is optimistic District 209 will be able to provide transportation for its students this winter, perhaps answering an oft-repeated call from community members.

At a board meeting earlier this month, Collins-Hart said it is her intention to bus high school students from the 10 communities in the school district to its campuses. Bids were received in August from three transportation companies and First Student, a Naperville operation, was selected.

District 209 spokeswoman TaQuoya Kennedy said some of the assumptions used to establish the cost estimates in August have changed, but she did not respond to a request for greater detail. In its bid, First Student pegged the value of its services at $3.76 million per year.

Where the funding for the transportation will come from was not made clear by district officials.

Phone messages and e-mails for the superintendent were not returned.

“The district estimates that over 95 percent of students will now be eligible for free transportation,” Kennedy said in an e-mail. “The transportation program is an effort to improve the quality of life for our students and ultimately improve PTHS 209’s truancy rates.”

Though the goal is to begin districtwide busing in January, board members were informed in August that it is a complicated project. It is possible, according to an August memo to the board, that buses would not begin transporting students until the start of the 2009-10 school year.

“We’re still in the planning phases,” Kennedy said.

She would not comment on whether students in each of the 10 communities that feed the district will receive service, or if specific bus routes have been finalized.

An Aug. 18 memo to the school board indicates that some busing services are already provided to students at Proviso West in Hillside, and that no district transportation is in place at Proviso East in Maywood.

The Forest Park campus, Proviso Math and Science Academy, was not included in the bid calculations, though Collins-Hart has indicated she wants to provide transportation throughout the district.