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With three weeks before school starts, Natchez officials still working to secure bus contract

Who will run buses when Natchez public schools start the new school year in September?

That was one of the questions on the minds of Natchez-Adams School District board members Tuesday.

With three weeks left before the start of the new school year on Sept. 9, Natchez-Adams School District officials have yet to extend a contract with Durham School Services.

The most recent contract with Durham expired on June 30.

Board attorney Bruce Kuehnle told board members Wednesday that he expects to talk with Durham’s attorney in the coming days to extend the contract for the upcoming school year.

Kuehnle said the school district sent a letter to Durham requesting an extension.

One issue that needs to be addressed, Kuehnle told the board is a part of the previous contract that had been questioned by legislative auditors.

Auditors said a clause in the contract that requires the district to pay Durham, even if services are not being provided to the district is not allowable.

Kuehnle said to the board that he hopes to find “some middle ground” that is not in violation.

Board member Phillip West asked what the worst case scenario was in the event that school district and Durham services could not come to an agreement.

Kuehnle said a provision in the contract that expired provides the school district with an opportunity to purchase buses from Durham in the event there is no contract.

NASD Superintendent Fred Butcher said approximately 80% of students will be attending school virtually this year. The school district would need buses for the remaining 20% of students who will be attending using a hybrid model of learning — getting part virtual and part in-class instruction. Butcher also said the school district plans to use buses for food delivery and other services.

Butcher assured board members that in the event an agreement could not be reached the school district will still be in a position to provide bus services to students.

An extension of the contract would be for one year, Kuehnle said. Kuehnle said he will have more information for the board when they gather again in September.