Safety the priority when buses roll out of the garage on Aug. 22

Steve Rose, left, a certified Mansfield City Schools on-board instructor, talks with prospective school bus drivers Lucy Ramos and Steve Foote during training on Monday.

      Mansfield City Schools buses, already inspected and passed by the Ohio Highway Patrol, will be ready to roll when classes resume next month.

      Also this summer new drivers are being trained and the district is preparing to seek bids for three, perhaps four, new standard 71-passenger buses.

      Transportation director Deb Rickert and mechanic Tom Maurer said all buses have Highway Patrol stickers signifying their road-safety worthiness for the start of school on Aug. 22.

      “The main inspections occur from January through June. From June to December all buses are subject to spot inspections,” Maurer said.

      Earlier, Maurer explained that Highway Patrol inspectors examine everything mechanical, as well as bus interiors, adding, “Probably the only thing looked over more closely than a school bus is an airplane.”

      Rickert and district treasurer Robert Kuehnle are preparing to seek bids for three or four new buses that would be put into service early in the coming school year. Over the last three years they have added a dozen new buses, while retiring buses that were 20 or more years old.

      Last summer Rickert described the district’s 38 regular buses and nine special needs buses as “the most modern fleet in Richland County.”

      Kuehnle budgeted for the purchase of as many as four buses this summer, which would allow Rickert to move that many older buses out of service. Mansfield City Schools acquires buses through META Solutions, a purchasing cooperative in Marion which represents many area school districts.

      While the district seeks the best bids for new buses, veteran bus driver Steve Rose is training prospective drivers Steve Foote and Lucy Ramos. Both already have commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) to drive tractor- trailers. Ramos also has driven for the Greyhound bus line.

      Still, they must qualify for a CDL specifically for operating a school bus. Rose is an On-Board Instructor certified by the Ohio Department of Education.

      “Steve is one of our most experienced drivers. He had to complete more state training to become an On-Board Instructor,” Rickert said.

      On Monday Rose watched as Foote and Ramos maneuvered a bus between orange cones in the parking lot along West Fourth Street adjacent to Arlin Field.

      “It takes at least 12 hours and usually close to 40 to prepare a driver for their school bus CDL test,” Rose said.

      New drivers also must digest eight pages of procedures that include picking up and letting off children from the right and left sides of the road, approaching and crossing railroad tracks and turnarounds.

      Once the CDL is earned a school bus driver’s regular routine involves much more than simply leaving the bus garage to begin a route.

      Rose produced a 145-point pre-trip inspection flow chart for drivers to follow. It encompasses virtually every aspect of the bus, including lights, brakes, windshields, tires and mirrors. Interior checks include the first-aid kit, fire extinguisher and road emergency box that includes red reflective triangles and six fuses.

      Foote will take his school bus CDL test this week at Massillon.

      “I already have a Class A CDL,” he said, “but there are a lot more regulations involved when kids are on board.”

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