WHEELING - Ohio County Schools Transportation Director Gary Kestner said three new buses are equipped with features that will benefit the student passengers, as well as the drivers.
Kestner said the two 77-passenger buses and one 65-passenger special needs bus are more "driver-friendly" than previous models. The buses' lower hoods provide drivers with a greater line of sight, and the controls are much easier to operate, he said.
The rear of the special needs bus can accommodate three wheelchairs, and harnesses are contained within the front two rows of seats. There is also more space between seats, as well as additional safety features.
The vehicles were purchased from Blue Bird Bus Sales, which Kestner said has long been known as the "Cadillac of buses."
Kestner said the new buses also are equipped with air conditioning, unlike those purchased in previous years. With the extended school year program lasting up to six weeks during the summer months, and the regular school year beginning as early as Aug. 8, Kestner said temperatures inside a bus can reach as high as 100 degrees.
Additionally, cameras are mounted on the dash and the buses' exterior. Kestner said air conditioning units and cameras will come standard on all buses the school system purchases in the future.
The interior of the buses will be sanitized every week using a sanitizing fogger. Kestner said the foggers resemble small cans, which will be placed in the buses following Friday afternoon routes. A handful of drivers have recently been out sick, and Kestner said this is a step toward keeping drivers and students healthy.
In August, Ohio County Board of Education members approved the purchase of the three buses at a total price tag of $305,876. However, reimbursement from state aid formula in the amount of $284,728 put the cost to the school system at just $21,148. The school system will purchase five more buses for next school year, with the state picking up part of the tab again. Kestner said the state will pay for two buses to replace current vehicles that traveled at least 180,000 miles in their 10-year life span, while the school system will purchase an additional three. The transportation department could receive those vehicles as early as October, Kestner added.