With the new school year, Clarke’s school buses are getting back into action. However, there’s been a few snags along the way.
On the first day of school, two school buses broke down. They were buses No. 2 and No. 10.
During an Aug. 12 Clarke School Board meeting, Rick Perin, the school’s transportation director, recommended the school board purchase six new buses to replace the district’s six oldest buses.
“It seems like, to me, that next board meeting, we better buy a couple of buses, at minimum. … You guys are really in a situation right now where we might not have enough buses to haul the kids around. So, let’s get some buses bought immediately,” said James Bair, school board member, during an Aug. 26 school board meeting.
The question is, what happens if more buses break down before new buses can be purchased?
Perin said, many times, a school bus being “down,” doesn’t mean a major breakdown. Problems and equipment can often be fixed in a timely manner.
The worst case scenario is an extracurricular activity, such as a football game, could be canceled because there’s not enough buses for transportation.
Perin said he would do everything for that not to happen. There’s always the possibility of leasing a school bus for an event or borrowing one from another school district.
Clarke Superintendent Benita Gonzales and Perin are currently working together on the issue of the school district needing new buses.
Perin said he can acquire used buses for the district to purchase, but they will be similar to the condition of buses the district already has in its fleet.
“Just an additional comment, too,” said Gerard Linskens, school board president. “Yeah, we’ve spent how much money on technology, which is great, but if you’re looking at essentials, the logistics of just getting kids back and forth places — to school — that’s an essential thing. I think it’s very important that we really strive forward with this.”
There were other bus issues discussed during the Aug. 26 board meeting, which many bus drivers attended.
Perin said no children were “lost” the first day of school. However, some children did fall asleep on the buses.
Extreme heat has also been a problem.
“When we are getting out of school early, you might have the greatest air-conditioning system in the whole district, but those buses are about 104 or 105 degrees,” said school-bus driver Tom Murr. “When we get 60 people in there, they get even hotter.”
Murr added, as for getting ventilation with having the windows down, he only goes about 15 miles per hour in town and, on some routes, there are three children to a seat.
Then, there’s the use of foul language on school buses.
Murr said bus drivers need the school board’s full support and help when dealing with inappropriate language on school buses.
Last year, a bus driver had to deal with a boy calling him and other students derogatory names. The male student was written up by the bus driver, but he wasn’t taken off the bus until he started harassing a female student.
“When we ignore the F-word, we’re not helping these kids,” Murr said.
The policy on language in the classrooms applies to language on school buses.
Perin said students know when the bus driver has his or her full attention on the road.
“They know when he looks down, it’s time to act up,” he said. “It’s going to get even worse if we get newer buses. Your bus seats are taller now, just for safety’s sake. Kids can hide. They can lay down. They can do all kinds of stuff … our hands our tied.”
A comment was made if a student gets written up about behavior on the school bus, the board and administration need to follow through with appropriate discipline.
Perin said it would be worthwhile to look into installing cameras on school buses.
“It’s evidence. There it is,” he said. “You bring Mom and Dad in and say, ‘It’s your kid, isn’t it? What do you want to do about it?’”