The Warren County R-III and Wright City R-II school districts hope to improve their busing experiences during the 2021-2022 school year, an issue that was discussed during their monthly board …
The Warren County R-III and Wright City R-II school districts hope to improve their busing experiences during the 2021-2022 school year, an issue that was discussed during their monthly board meetings in August.
Warren County R-III Director of Transportation Dave Tinnin reported data from the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 12, reporting that the department had fallen short of its preferred marks on evaluations.
“Unfortunately, it was not a good year for us,” said Tinnin while discussing the data.
The district had recorded a 100-percent safety inspection rating from 2016 through 2018. That was followed by ratings of 96.4 and 90.9 percent. In 2021 that inspection rating dropped to 81 percent.
“This was a disappointing year for inspections, especially with all the hard work put in by our mechanics,” said Tinnin.
He said the inspection is rigorous, and districts can be graded on many non-mechanical criteria, including aging cosmetic components of the buses.
“To put in perspective, a bus can fail an inspection for as little as the vinyl casing around the lights has faded and is not dark enough,” said Tinnin. “We had a bus in line whose lights were working, pulled in the bay for inspection and the tail lights stopped working.”
Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith assured that buses are safe for students to ride on.
“The bus inspection process is much different than getting your car inspected,” explained Klinginsmith. “With the bus inspection there are a lot more details.”
R-III is also working through recent personnel changes in its transportation department, with both Tinnin and several members of his staff having taken over during a time of rapid change. This included a change of which students are eligible for pickup twice in two years.
“We’ve got some new staff in place, so it’s a learning process,” said Klinginsmith. “We’ll consider this a benchmark and expect these numbers to go up from here.”
The district also saw an increase in traffic incidents involving buses.
R-III reported four accidents during 2020-21, three of which were no fault of the driver. The fourth incident involved a driver backing into a parked car while navigating unfamiliar territory.
The transportation department continues to face challenges with staffing for its fleet of 44 buses and maintaining its goal of a 95-percent driver retention rate. With the expansion of routes being covered for the 2021-22 school year, the district needed to hire additional drivers.
“We have just enough to cover our exact routes, but if somebody is out, we’re going to be short,” said Klinginsmith. “We’re always looking for bus drivers. Anybody that wants to get trained, we’ll pay for them to get trained and provide insurance.”
While the department fell short on several of its goals, one mark that did improve was disciplinary referrals, which saw a decline in 2020-21. This mark went from 673 the previous year down to 457 referrals. The goal is a 20-percent decrease, and R-III achieved that with a 32-percent drop.
The Wright City R-II School District is optimistic as it enters the first year of its contract with a new bus service, Ecco Ride. This follows a 10-year relationship with Durham Bus Service.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Way shared the R-II transportation report during an Aug. 19 board meeting.
Like its neighboring district, Wright City also saw a decrease in inspection rating. After achieving a Total Fleet Excellence Award in 2020, R-II received an 88 on its latest evaluation, with three minor violations found and corrected.
“One of our goals is to get back to the Total Excellence Award,” noted Way.
Wright City had four total accidents involving student transportation, three of which were deemed preventable, during the last school year.
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