Levy to replace aging buses on ballot
The first and last school district employee most school children see each day is the man or woman who drives the school bus. Not only do they have the enormous responsibility of safely transporting children to school and back home each day, their smile and warm hello every morning can very often set the tone for what a child’s entire day will be like. It’s no surprise that there is a special bond between many students and their bus driver.
I had the opportunity to spend most of a day with one of our school bus drivers last year. I was there when she went through her pre-route routine of checking the tires, the emergency exit doors and the exit windows, and rode along as she picked up and dropped off the high school students, then the middle school students, and then the elementary students. Finally, I was with her when she performed her duties at the end of the day.
Until I spent the day with this driver, I didn’t fully appreciate what a school bus driver needs to know to do his or her job. The driver I was with knew the name of every student that she picked up and dropped off, for example.
For the youngest students, she also knew who should be there to meet the child at the end of the day and what to do if that person wasn’t there. She knew how to handle emergencies that might come up, and she was an expert in the mechanical operation of the bus itself. The driver made all of this look easy, but I came away impressed by how difficult the job actually is and how valuable it is to our school system.
Cindy Steigerwald, the manager of our transportation department, recently give a presentation at a school board meeting about the work that her department does. She told us that our 82 bus drivers and 22 substitute drivers make about 8,500 student deliveries to school and home each day and drive a combined total of over a million miles each year. She pointed out that we have had outstanding school bus inspections by the State Patrol for each of the past 26 years.
Steigerwald also told the school board how school buses have improved in recent years with better safety features and emission controls. The windshields in new buses are 33 percent larger, the mirrors provide better visibility, the seats have higher backs and extra padding to make them safer, and the bodies are stronger.
Sometime within the next few weeks, you will receive a Fact Sheet in the mail about a one-year Transportation Vehicle Fund levy that will be on the November ballot. The levy would raise about $3 million in 2013 and then expire, but would raise enough money to purchase about 30 new school buses over the coming years.
The Fact Sheet provides more information about the proposal and details about the impact it will have on taxes. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.