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LCPS approves $9M school bus contract


The school board unanimously approved an annual contract between Las Cruces Public Schools and transportation STS of NM for school bus service in the 2024-25 school year during their June 18 meeting.

The agreement includes over $2.3 million for purchase or rental fees and over $6.6 million for services, totaling $9,010,747.89, per the fleet service contract. The payment may vary under certain conditions such as changes to bus routes, fleet or services.

Additionally, the contract provides for use of district property at Organ Mountain High School in east Las Cruces, where STS stages a bus yard and where drivers are allowed to access restrooms and office space. The contract states that the district benefits from the arrangement through reduced mileage and wear-and-tear on vehicles, a statement that appears to head off potential questions about the New Mexico Constitution’s anti-donation clause. STS provides the buses, fuel and drivers for transportation services.

At the school board meeting, there was open discussion about a recurring topic in recent years: LCPS taking over school bus services and employing drivers itself. Two drivers with STS, whose drivers are organized by the Las Cruces Transportation Federation, endorsed the proposal during the school board meeting, as did an organizer with the American Federation of Teachers as well as Irma Valdespino of the Classified School Employees Council of Las Cruces.

Bus driver Velma Janssen expressed appreciation for the contract’s passage during public comments but said, “I believe we would be more satisfied with our jobs if we were directly employed by the district. We like what we do, but many have left to seek employment elsewhere with more money, more benefits and better working conditions.”

William Edgar, another bus driver, said wages for drivers have improved over his 14 years with the company but said drivers still lacked holiday or vacation pay and the health benefits available to drivers was not enough to make healthcare affordable.

Grace Jimenez of the AFT, which works with the LCTF employees, addressed the board also, expressing support for the movement among bus drivers for direct employment by the district instead of a private contractor, citing several complaints about pay, benefits and conditions. Further, STS drivers do not qualify from raises legislators have approved for teachers and other school staff.

“The only way for that to change is for them to become public employees and district employees,” Jimenez concluded.