Several bus drivers and concerned parents attended the Northmor School Board meeting Tuesday to voice their opinions about the district’s proposal to park buses at the school property on County Road 29.
The concerned bus drivers have parked the school vehicles at their homes since their bus routes are close to their residence, and the school is 10 to 15 miles away. It is both a savings and a convenience for them to warm up their bus at home and start the route from there, rather than to drive to the school and drive back.
Superintendent,Chad Redmon made the suggestion last fall that school buses might be better maintained if kept in the school’s parking lot. However, he decided along with the board to get feedback from drivers and school board members before a final decision was made.
Several of the bus drivers attending pointed out that they have driven their routes for 20 years or more with good safety and attendance records. They also stated they have parked the buses on their property with very few problems.
Northmor bus driver, John Jagger said that it is also a safety issue. If all the buses are parked in one place, someone could vandalize the whole fleet by draining fuel or damaging buses. Northmor is especially vulnerable since it is particularly isolated.
One suggestion was to have a regular maintenance schedule for buses. This could be done at the school on a weekly or monthly basis.
Board responds to drivers’ and parent’s concerns
Board member, Carlyle Smith said he was initially sold on the idea of having all the buses parked at the school. After he had heard the bus drivers’ concerns, he had a different outlook. He suggested a compromise.
Smith suggested that drivers who had parked their buses at their homes for years without a problem could be “grandfathered” in to keep that arrangement. New drivers or drivers who had excessive absences or many mechanical problems with their buses would need to park thier buses on school property.
Board Member Daniel Sipes said he believes it is important to talk to the bus mechanics some more. They are the ones who have to go out to the bus drivers’ homes when buses are not at the school and there is a mechanical problem, or buses won’t start.
Jeff Whisler, who is School Board President, suggested that it may be a good time to take a look at the bus routes and restructure the maps.
District Treasurer Tammi Cowell said that someone questioned whether it is a financial or insurance issue. She said that there is no difference in insurance cost if buses are kept at the school or at homes. She added that it is sometimes the mechanical issues that are a problem. She said that all drivers do not “plug in” as required.
Superintendent Chad Redmon said he has mixed feelings about the issue. He thought at first that parking buses at the school would keep the buses running with less mechanical and other problems. However, after hearing drivers’ concerns he felt it was necessary to look at the whole picture again. He thanked drivers and parents for their feedback and said the board should have a decision in March or April.
Jagger said, “We (bus drivers) perceive our importance for the children’s safety. We are dedicated to the safety of every child in this school district.”