Denise Young uses a brush to soap a bus during final preparations for school next week. The bus garage crew work all summer to be sure the transportation leg of the education process is in tip top shape for the students who will be riding the buses to school and activities.
When the public schools in the area open next week, one of the first signs many will see are those big yellow buses moving down the road. And one of the first things on educators minds will the safety of the children being carried by those coaches.
"We are asking motorists to watch for our buses and to stop for the flashing lights when they are on as well as for students crossing streets in the county," said Scott Robertson, director of transportation for the Carbon School District.
Seeing those buses next week it would be easy to assume that they were parked after the school year last spring, stored and started up that morning to haul students.
But that isn't the way it works, according to Robertson. A lot of effort goes in to make sure that the transportation the students are being carried on is safe, clean and well maintained.
"We work all summer to get ready for the fall," he stated . "During the summer, we basically rebuild many of the buses in the fleet."
That fleet consists of 37 buses that handle 25 routes during the school year.
The buses are also used for transport for special activities and athletics as well.
The duties of driving the buses falls on the shoulders of 40 drivers, most of them part time workers.
For those that have driven a Suburban or Expedition with a load full of kids, they have received just an inkling of what it can be like to transport over 80 students on a bus.
"Driving a school bus can be a very nerve racking job," said Robertson. "There are so many things one needs to pay attention to."
That includes the road, the traffic and what is going on in the bus between the kids.
"The bus driver should have 100 percent control of what is going on in the bus to keep everyone safe," he stated.
Once school is going, buses begin running out of the garage west of Carbon High School as early as 6:20 a.m. and come in from regular routes as late at 4:15 p.m.
Of course many activity buses come back must later than that, some in the early morning hours once athletic competitions begin.
This year, the buses will be going some different places and not going to some past familiar ones, because Carbon High has changed competitive regions.
The district has a form with bus rules on it that is sent out at the beginning of each school year to every transported students home.
The rules are really quite plain; common sense rules when it comes to picking up and dropping off students and kids are responsible for their behavior.
Carbon School District has an excellent record of taking care of students and for bus safety.
Last year, the district received only one of five gold star awards given in the state for having safe buses.
"The Utah Highway Patrol pulls up here and says they are going to inspect our buses without warning," explained Robertson. "They gave us the award because we passed with flying colors."
The state checks the brakes, lights, tires, exhaust system, cleanliness, seats and just about everything else one can think of in their 200 point check.
"Every bus gets inspected at least once a year and some of them twice," stated Robertson.
Buses are maintained by the drivers, who clean the vehicles and complete daily maintenance, and by in-house shop mechanics Rich Ghrist and Travis Rasmussen.
Buses also get a lot of dings, dents and since the vehicles are out in all kinds of weather, wear on their body panels. It's Allen Edwards job to repair the bodies and keep the rust at bay.
During a regular school day the district runs 25 separate routes, picking up and dropping off students. They carry 2500 students every day. This year the district bought no new buses to haul kids however; money is tight everywhere.
"It's no problem because we have such good maintenance," said Robertson. He stated that when the district does buy new buses those go into a pool to be used on long distance trips and then are phased into daily service as they get more miles on them.
The local school district trains its bus driver. The trainers are Kathleen Price and Jim Miller.
"We can now take a person off the street and turn them into a bus driver," said Robertson. "The state keeps detailed records on every driver. All must go through an extensive background check before they start and every five years after that. In Carbon District we also look at their total motor vehicle operators record every six months."
Most drivers in the district are part-time. But special needs drivers work full-time. Special needs buses and drivers help individuals with disabilities who attend school.
Summer transportation used to be a busy time for the bus department. Carbon district often transported students attending athletic camps at College of Eastern Utah around the county and to various venues. But now, the districts with students attending the camps provide the transportation.
"It is slow now during the summer, but we keep plenty busy getting the buses ready for the beginning of school," said Robertson.
All school bus departments help out other districts when problems arise.
"If a district is transporting students through our area for any reason, we are on 24 hour call to help them," stated Robertson. "If they need a bus to continue their trip we will provide that. They will do the same for us if we have a problem in their area."
Carbon County residents are cautioned to watch for the big yellow buses a well as the students who get on and off the vehicles.
School bus transportation guidelines
Drivers are allowed to pick up and leave students at their assigned bus stops only. Students may be picked up and dropped off at daycare as long as it is done during the a.m. and p.m. a the same address everyday.
Drives may not allow students friends or other ineligible individuals to ride the bus to or from school.
A parent/guardian or older sibling must be present or visible to the bus driver to transport preschool, kindergarten and special needs children. In one of these individuals is not present when the bus drops off children, they child will remain on the bus and return to the school where parents can pick them up. Repeat offenders will be reported. Parents and care givers are repsonsible to bring special needs students to the bus.
Pupils being transported are unde the authority of the bus driver or teachers. Buses are equiped with video and audio cameras. Students are subject to video and audio monitoring.
Students cannot be left at the bus garage.
Drivers and employees will search for lost and forgotten items on a bus at their convenience. Parents and students may come and search the bus for lost items. Students are reponsible for their own items.