The Wichita district is using bus drivers as part-time custodians at more than a dozen elementary schools as part of a pilot program aimed at keeping schools clean and holding down costs, officials said.
Darren Muci, director of operations for Wichita schools, said the district plans to contract with First Student this semester to provide workers to clean cafeterias over the lunch period at 16 schools.
First Student, a private company based in Cincinnati, is the bus transportation provider for the Wichita district.
“We determined that outsourcing this service … would be a very efficient use of our available monies,” Muci said.
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Wichita school board members on Monday will consider a contract with First Student for temporary cafeteria workers for the remainder of the fall semester. The district would pay $15 an hour per worker, according to the proposal – $45,000 or less for all 16 schools.
The pilot schools are: Allen, Cessna, Chisholm Trail, Cleaveland, Colvin, Jackson, Kensler, Linwood, Minneha, Mueller, Peterson, Price-Harris, Spaght, Stanley, White and Woodman.
Muci said First Student was the only local firm able to provide temporary workers for the two-hour shifts who have been vetted, background-checked and trained for interacting with students.
The lunchtime custodians, who already are working at the pilot schools, are bus drivers or bus aides in the morning and afternoon, Muci said.
Several schools switched custodians to later shifts to clean classrooms, hallways and common areas at the end of the school day, Muci said. That left the schools needing extra help at lunchtime, but there weren’t enough funds to hire additional custodians, he said.
Custodians, who are district employees, receive pay and benefits under the district’s contract with the Service Employees International Union Local 513.
“It’s going to be a savings for us because it’s an employee that we are not carrying on our payroll,” Muci said. “We are not paying benefits, and we are not the employer.”
Officials with the service employees union could not be reached for comment. An employment agreement between the district and the union for the 2015-16 school year also is on the agenda for Monday’s school board meeting.
Muci said the pilot project is not part of a plan to privatize custodial services on a larger scale. He and other district staff will evaluate the program during the semester to decide whether to continue it.
“That was not the goal,” he said. “We have to make sure we have custodians working the right time frame and hours for our schools, so we needed to look for a creative way to do that.”