School buses: How safe are they?

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School buses: How safe are they?

Maintenance, driver training, roads all play part
Bayfield, Ignacio bus safety

All told, the three school districts in the county – Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio – drive more than 925,000 miles annually taking students to school and activities. Durango’s school district is responsible for the majority, about 535,000 miles each year.
Ignacio’s district, which covers about 210 square miles, includes students from both La Plata and Archuleta counties, Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto said. Ignacio drivers collect students from north and east of Navajo Reservoir.
Ignacio’s bus drivers receive more than 16 hours of continuing safety and student behavioral management training each year, he said. The district also provides one-on-one training when necessary, a commitment all three districts have.
“We have not had any major bus accidents since 2010,” Fuschetto said. “Knock on wood, we have been very lucky, but the transportation director has weekly meetings with bus drivers to discuss safety issues, concerns, training and so on.”
Principals at the various schools handle discipline, he said. Ignacio installed cameras on its buses this year.
Bayfield’s records going past three years back are not complete, Bayfield’s Transportation Director Jeff Whitmore said.
“We have not had any (Colorado Department of Education) reportable incidents during my three-year tenure,” he said, “which is more than ($2,500) in damage or injuries.”
Jennifer Okes, director of finance for the state’s Department of Education, said a transportation advisory council has suggested the dollar amount of damage requiring notification to the state be raised to $5,000, because it doesn’t take much to incur $2,500 in damage. That change would require approval by the Colorado Board of Education.
Bayfield’s district covers 450 square miles, and its drivers transport students 150,000 miles annually in buses and 75,000 miles with the small-vehicle fleet. The district transports about 350 students to and from school each day, but at some point in the school year, all 1,350 students in the district will ride a bus for an activity or field trip, he said.
“At the beginning of each school year, each family signs off on bus rules,” Whitmore said. “If a child breaks the rules, generally the driver will first talk with the student to get desired behavior.”

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School buses: How safe are they?

Roger Roots, a school bus mechanic with Durango School District 9-R, checks specifications while performing an annual safety check on a bus at the maintenance facility. Despite the recent rollover of a bus on Lightner Creek Road (County Road 207), the district’s bus safety record is good according to state statistics.
Durango School District 9-R bus driver Gordon Baxter cleans the interior of his bus at the bus barn facility before starting his route. Drivers must pass extensive background checks before they begin training with the district to earn their commercial driver’s license. After the CDL is earned, they undergo specialized training in emergency preparedness and behavior management before they actually drive a bus full of students.
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