On June 10, the District 65 School Board approved using Zum Services, Inc., as an alternative to 303 Taxi to transport students who need transportation services and who do not use the school bus. District 65 will be the first school district in Illinois to use Zum.
Raphael Obefemi, Chief Financial and Operating Officer, told members of the Finance Committee on June 3 that the District spent about $750,000 on taxis last year, and that it was expected to spend almost $1 million on taxis in the 2019-2020 school year.
He said the District pays for taxis for students who are transferred out of District 65 for special education services or who are taking a class at Evanston Township High School or who are entitled to take the bus to a District 65 school but have been shifted to a taxi due to behavioral issues on the bus. In addition, the District pays for taxis for some parents to attend meetings at the schools, he said.
Mr. Obefemi said he has been in discussions with Zum for almost a year. He said Zum has a similar platform to Uber or Lyft, but it is very different. He said Zum focuses only on providing transportation of students for school districts.
Zum says it has contracts with more than 140 school districts in California, and that it specializes in providing transportation for children with special needs. Its drivers have background checks and are vetted to meet the individual needs of students; drivers must pass training to drive a school bus; there will be a dedicated person in the Evanston vehicle to monitor the rides; and parents will have an app on which they can track in real time their child’s car and receive texts when their child is dropped off, said Zum.
Mr. Obefemi added that Zum drivers are given an assigned route, but there is a back-up system if a driver is absent.
Mr. Obefemi said he was planning to phase in Zum by providing it with about 25% of the District’s transportation business and then scaling it up. He said he anticipated that the cost would be at least 15% lower than the cost of taxis, and it might result in up to 25 to 30 % savings.