Assistant Superintendent Mike Mabe said the research phase of Union R-XI’s transportation audit has come to a close and the auditing firm has began analyzing its findings.

The school board approved the audit by TransPar Group, which will cost $12,000, at its October meeting. The three-phase audit looks into the day-to-day operations of the district’s bus routes, as well as the routes covered by Union’s transportation partner, First Student.

Mabe said it wasn’t clear when the audit would be totally finished, but noted that the analysis phase of the audit may take longer than the research phase.

The audit is intended to identify the safest and most efficient ways the district can gets its students to and from school, Mabe said. While there have been strides in technology and food service in the district, he said, transportation is still a challenge.

TransPar Group will be providing financial and performance analysis. That will include an in-depth look at route planning and efficiency, dismissal bell times and if adjustments are needed, fleet management and performance, staffing and recommendations going forward.

Currently, bus dismissals are staggered to give drivers time to get to each school and pick up waiting students. Mabe said the district’s goal is to have buses waiting on students, not the other way around.

Mabe said the audit is not only important to the district’s upcoming facility upgrades, but also to students’ daily lives. He said the staggered dismissal of students can often be chaotic, and he aims to decrease the amount of time students spend on a bus each day.

“By doing this audit, this will ensure our practices are on point, or tell us that we have some things to adjust or evaluate,” Mabe said.