The vote to purchase an activity bus for Clinton City Schools has assisted with a transportation problem presented to board members earlier in the summer.
During the board’s meeting last week, members approved the $90,000 purchase of a basic 72 passenger activity bus. This falls on the heels of the system’s purchase of two yellow buses at a cost of $180,000. School officials cited mechanical problems on several of the buses as the reasoning for the need of the purchase.
According to Shirley Williams, director of student services, the system was in desperate need of purchasing two activity buses at a cost of $85,000 each, plus the additional costs of getting the bus road ready. Before the purchase approval, the local system had five full size activity buses, one mini activity bus and a bus that is shared between CCS and Sampson County Schools.
“Our mechanics have said there are only three buses that they would recommend travel outside the county,” Williams shared with board members during a work session earlier in the summer.
As part of the system’s fleet, there are three activity buses that date 20 years or more. Additionally, all the buses, except one, have been presenting mechanical problems and are not fully reliable for travel. According to Williams, mechanics have said one bus has a check engine light that goes on and off, several of the buses have high mileage, with over 100,000 miles, some buses have difficulty starting and a couple of the buses do not have air conditioner that works.
The systems buses are shared among all five schools in the system. While CCS has access to the bus shared with Sampson County, Williams earlier indicated that was presenting a problem with scheduling, leaving Williams and other school officials scrambling to find a bus.
“When our football team and cheerleaders travel away, it requires them to take three buses,” Williams stated during the earlier board work session. “Even if we wanted to send the band, we couldn’t, without borrowing a bus from Sampson County.”
The bus issue, Williams added, has been limiting the extra curricular activities the schools are able to provide. With only three buses recommended for travel outside of the county, Williams said she is often searching for a bus CCS can borrow.
“We have to piece it together,” Williams shared. “When I can, I borrow a bus from Sampson County Schools, but that doesn’t always work. Sometimes, when they have activities planned, they may not have a bus available. Borrowing a bus isn’t a big ordeal because they don’t mind letting us borrow the bus, but it is a lot of work to find the bus and make sure it isn’t already occupied.”
William recommended the board purchase two activity buses to replace a bus purchased in 1994 and has nearly 180,000 miles and a bus purchased in 1994 that has more than 200,000 miles as a way to satisfy the system’s needs.
According to information provided by school officials, the system also owns a bus that was purchased in 1996 and now has 116,801 miles on it. Between the three buses, there is more than 60 years and almost 500,000 miles associated with the buses.
“We don’t have an off season with the bus use,” Williams shared earlier with the board. “Therefore, it’s hard to schedule maintenance and get the necessary work done.”
The schools have experienced buses breaking down while on trips. The bus that was purchased in 1996 broke down near South of the Border on Interstate 95, prior to school releasing in June. The bus needs the transmission seal replaced, the air conditioner doesn’t run properly, there is no rear heat and the bus has broken down more than 20 times.
“Even if we repair some of these buses, the mechanic says they should not be driven outside the county,” Williams explained.
The status of the activity buses was originally presented to board members as an information only item, but board members say they feel the need to address the issue in any way possible.
“This is our first time hearing about this,” newly elected board chairwoman Georgina Zeng shared. “We will accommodate all the bus needs and make this work.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.