School may be out, but…
The staff of the Franklin County Schools Transportation Department are hard at work preparing for the new school year, which starts Wednesday, Aug. 15, with the district’s bus mechanics working to ensure that every school bus is in proper working order before the first day of school. The district’s four mechanics are responsible for maintaining and repairing the 85 school buses in the Franklin County fleet. Under an agreement between the two districts, they also maintain 11 buses owned by the Frankfort Independent Schools.
The Franklin County dstrict has two bus parking areas: one at the bus garage on the east side and one on the west side near the Western Hills High School football field. Over the summer the buses are moved to the east side, where the mechanics thoroughly inspect every bus. They then repair or replace anything that requires attention, including seats, windows and doors, tires, brakes, transmissions, shock absorbers, fuel injectors, heaters, two-way radios and other components. Their goal is to ensure that every bus is safe, but also to minimize the likelihood of their breaking down during the school year. The buses also are thoroughly cleaned inside and out.
Of course, the mechanics’ work doesn’t end on the first day of school, since the peak-use period for buses runs from August through May. During the school year, every bus is inspected once each month as required by law, and other routine maintenance issues are addressed on an as-needed basis. For example, light bulbs are replaced, heaters are repaired, torn seats are fixed, and oil and filters are changed. Bus drivers are required to perform a pre-trip inspection before every single bus trip, which in many cases is three or four times per day. They also must report any maintenance or repair needs to ensure that they are addressed as soon as possible. Of course, safety issues get top priority.
While the mechanics spend the summer working on buses, other Transportation Department staff provide training for new bus drivers and monitors. Every new driver must complete rigorous classroom and on-the-road instruction, after which they are required to pass the state’s driving test for a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), with a passenger endorsement. This means they have met the state and federal requirements to drive a commercial passenger vehicle. Every returning (experienced) driver also must participate in refresher training every summer as well. Bus monitors also undergo training as well.
Besides safe operation of school buses, the training includes bus evacuation and other emergency procedures, student behavior management, district policies, state and federal laws and regulations, how to handle sick children, pick up and drop off procedure and much more. Bus driver training typically lasts 21 days.
This is all happening while numerous buses are being used during the summer to transport students to and from summer school, field trips, summer athletic camps and summer scrimmages and competitions.
In addition to the four mechanics, the school district employs nearly 65 bus drivers, more than 40 bus monitors, the director of transportation, an assistant director, one field trip coordinator and one administrative assistant/secretary. This team supports the transportation of 5,200 students each day on 60 regular routes. Each morning, nearly every bus makes two runs – one for elementary students and another for middle and high school students. The same buses make the same trips each afternoon to safely return students to their homes.
Needless to say, it is a complex operation with a lot of (literally) moving parts and a single goal: To SAFELY transport students to and from school each and every day.