The Barnum School District and Moose Lake School District are planning to share transportation where it makes sense beginning in the 2020-21 school year, or when students return to the classrooms.

Barnum Superintendent Mike McNulty said district officials are still working out the logistics and do not know details yet.

The schools agreed to pick up each other's students to help increase efficiency and save money, officials said.

School officials in Barnum estimate the arrangement will save $30,000 to $40,000 due to sharing a mechanic and a dispatch person with Moose Lake School District, McNulty said. Moose Lake Superintendent Billie Jo Steen said the district expects to save $10,000 annually from the partnership.

The schools will share buses, as well as drivers. The districts will split the costs, but will still keep garages at their respective schools, McNulty said.

The school districts will hire a dispatch director to be the contact person for parents, bus drivers and the administration. The person will be responsible for many of the daily operations the mechanic used to take care of, so he can focus on the vehicles, McNulty said.

Even though the buses at Barnum are older, McNulty said the district still plans to keep them. Due to the age difference between the buses at Barnum and Moose Lake, McNulty said he expects Barnum will pay a higher percentage of the mechanic's wages than Moose Lake.

Steen said the school district has leased buses for the last nine years, but officials decided to start purchasing them this year due to an increase in the lease price.

She said they had been leasing buses because it was more cost effective than purchasing at the time.

The latest three-year lease expired June 30, 2020, and the next lease was going to significantly increase, Steen said.

The expired lease payment was $145,000 per year, said Kara Burn, Moose Lake School District business manager. The new lease will be around $150,000 per year for five years and the school district will own the buses once the lease is done.

The previous lease agreement Moose Lake had also covered many of the repairs over the years. The school mechanic provided basic repairs and maintenance, Steen said.

Now that the school is purchasing the buses, the mechanic will be providing all of the repairs for the school district, she said.

While officials expect to save $10,000 annually on busing with the new partnership, Steen said the figure is subject to change. She said she does not know what the school year will look like yet due to possible changes with COVID-19, which plays a part in potential savings for the school district.

"It's such an unknown right now," Steen said.