School Bus Fleet

October 2014

A management & maintenance magazine for school transportation fleets

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16 S C H O O L B U S F L E E T • O C T O B E R 2 0 1 4 area trip over the summer when the student track team took one of the buses up to Mammoth Lakes for fve days. Varner obtained multiple quotes from coach companies, and the lowest he got for the trip was for $10,300. He was able, however, to run the trip with the converted ac- tivity bus for $3,400, saving nearly $7,000, or about two-thirds of the transportation cost. "The coach said for that kind of savings, he doesn't mind pull- ing into a rest stop," Varner says. "It's been a good move. We plan on coaches seeing more of them." As the new school year recently began, the activity buses were put into service almost every day, han- dling longer feld trips. The district conducts, on average, 200 feld ac- tivity and athletic trips in a given week, Varner says. Ensuring safe access Varner was not only driven by bud- getary concerns to create the vehicles; he was also focusing on safety. "There are very good coach com- panies out there, and there are coach companies that aren't legal opera- tors. We want to make sure we pro- vide the safest service we can for our need to be even more effcient with our dollars, we only take them to and home from practices that are not on the district's campus," she says. Converted buses save trip money Richard Varner, director of trans- portation at William S. Hart Union High School District in Santa Clar- ita, California, says his district's converted activity buses, which the transportation department de- signed in collaboration with A-Z Bus Sales, recently beat his previous expectation of saving around $4,000 per trip, at least so far. Varner purchased three new Blue Bird Type D buses three years ago and prepared the specifcations for the vehicles to turn them into ac- tivity buses. The buses, designed to be comfortable for longer trips, are equipped with coach-style seats and air conditioning, have Wi-Fi capabili- ty, and have been certifed by the Cal- ifornia Highway Patrol. Converting the buses cost $35,000 each and was funded through a lease purchase. Varner had initially estimated that using these activity buses would cost around $2,000 per trip on the longest trips. The district ran its frst out-of- many years, providing 8,000 feld trips and athletic trips annually, pri- marily with contracted buses. Every school in the district has business partners, such as Boeing Co. Desti- nations such as the Aquarium of the Pacifc get federal funds for school bus transportation, and parks and recreation departments get state and federal funds to pay for day trips. Music funding comes from a public- private partnership with the Long Beach Symphony. Additionally, some schools are able to use categorical money, and PTA, booster clubs, community drives and grants for sports activities provide support, mostly for buses. For fnancial reasons, however, some districts only do one-way ath- letic trips to save money, according to Bailey, which he says he understands. "It's not unreasonable to expect par- ents to go to games," he explains. Shannon Weber, director of trans- portation at J.O. Combs Unifed School District #44 in San Tan Val- ley, Arizona, says that her district doesn't transport students home from sports practice now, but there was a time when they did. "However, because of continued EXTRACURRICULAR SERVICE J.O. Combs Unifed School District #44 in San Tan Valley, Arizona, offers three 14-passenger activity buses from its white feet for coaches of small sports teams to drive to nearby out-of- district competitions. All coaches are CDL certifed and get school bus driver training. "There's no, 'you got to ride in a fancy limousine and I had to ride in Mom's whatever.' It puts the kids on a level playing field." Mark Buddle, transportation supervisor Richfeld Springs (N.Y.) Central School

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