Wilton's Board of Education has acquired a new school bus contractor, and public schools in town can expect a new fleet this fall.

Student Transportation of America, known as STA, will introduce the new unit, maintaining about the same 35 buses and daily routes throughout the school year.

All buses have new seat belts and lap-shoulder belts, making this district to be the first in the state to offer lap-shoulder belts — a major improvement in the protection of children.

All drivers will be rehired, and there will no additional payroll necessary. The new contractor will come at a lesser transportation cost to the town than last year, according to Mary Channing, transportation coordinator for the Wilton school district.

STA offered the reduced cost of school transportation earlier this year, after the Board of Education sent out requests for proposals last November.

"We had had the same contractor for a number of years and it was time to put a request for proposals out to different contractors," Ms. Channing said.

STA was awarded its contract on Feb. 9 this year, and the process of transferring from one service to the other began at the end of June. The new fleet of buses began arriving at terminals on July 2, and have begun helping with Parks and Recreation transportation and with summer school.

"The new fleet was offered at a lower price than anyone else," said Ken Post, director of financial planning and operations fro Wilton's school district. "We are quite confident they are going to be reliable."

The first full day of operations will be the Aug. 23 "Meet-the-Teacher Day" at Wilton public schools.

"Hopefully there will be a new bus out at every school," Ms. Channing said.

Dates have not yet been set for official ceremonies with teachers and administration, Ms. Channing said.