Starting this fall, Baraboo students will see some new faces driving their school buses.

The Baraboo School Board voted unanimously at a meeting Monday to start a five-year contract with Lamers Bus Lines Inc., forgoing renewal of its current contract with Kobussen Buses. The contract still is subject to legal review.

“We’re looking forward to working with Lamers,” said Mike Kohlman, chairman of the board’s Buildings, Grounds and Transportation Committee. “They seem like a really good company, and we’ve heard a lot of good things from people who use them as their carrier, which really carries a lot of weight.”

The committee, consisting of Kohlman, Gary Cummings and Kevin Vodak, recommended the contract with Green Bay-based Lamers, starting with the 2019-20 school year, at a cost of $1.31 million per year for the first two years and then increasing by 2 percent each of the remaining three years.

The starting cost is 3 percent higher than what the district had budgeted for transportation next year based on its current contract, Kohlman said, though he added that Lamers offered the lowest cost among the four new proposals, which included one from Kaukauna-based Kobussen.

Owner Dan Kobussen said he wasn’t surprised by the move to choose the least expensive service.

“We’d like to thank the Baraboo School District for the last five years,” Kobussen said. “They’ve been great business partners and we look forward to working with them in the future.”

About a dozen Kobussen employees sat through almost an hour of unrelated business until the board approved the contract with Lamers. They then left without saying anything.

Kobussen said their attendance was “great because they support us and they want to continue with Kobussen.” He said he doesn’t know what will happen to the Baraboo location, which employs about 40 part-time bus drivers, suggesting he might sell it. If the office closes, the company would offer the affected employees positions in other locations, Kobussen said.

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After the district put out a request in January, Lamers, Kobussen, Dairyland Buses and GO Riteway Transportation submitted proposals, Kohlman said. Cummings noted the committee interviewed all four companies, an endeavor that took about four hours.

The district originally contracted with Kobussen for three years starting in 2014 and then renewed the contract for two more, according to the district’s business director, Yvette Updike. The company will continue serving the district through the summer.

At a January meeting, Kohlman said the district had been experiencing “ongoing issues” with Kobussen, mainly relating to poor communication. The company didn’t address his concerns during the proposal process, he said.

According to its website, Lamers has more than 40 Wisconsin locations, including one in Sauk City. It will be looking to open a terminal in Baraboo, Kohlman said.

He noted it seems like “a bus drivers’ company,” with employees who started as bus drivers now working in high positions.

“They really seem like a hands-on company,” he said.

Board member Nancy Thome was absent Monday.

In other action, the school board:

  • Accepted the resignation of West Elementary School kindergarten teacher Tiffany Kortbein.
  • Approved the hiring of Kelsey Fish as a high school math teacher.
  • Gave permission for two Baraboo High School FFA officers to go to the national organization’s Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., from June 18-23. FFA adviser Kristi Williams said the conference costs $940 plus airfare, with $750 covered by sponsorship from Baraboo alumni.
  • Authorized the high school girls soccer team to make an overnight trip to Wisconsin Dells for a tournament and then a Mother’s Day brunch.
  • Approved job postings for an educational interpreter and a Jack Young Middle School language arts teacher.
  • Held a closed-session discussion on District Administrator Lori Mueller’s performance evaluation. Kohlman later said in a phone interview that “everybody is so pleased with the job Lori is doing.”

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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