Thursday, February 3, 2005

New 71-passenger buses ready

Staff Writer

The Marshall County School District has four new school buses to add to the fleet.

Potts Camp, Galena, Byers and Byhalia will each get one of the buses, according to Don Randolph, superintendent.

The four buses, equipped with Mercedes-Benz diesels, automatic transmission and white tops to help keep the passenger areas cooler during hot weather, cost the school district $47,500 each. A new bus to transport special needs students has been ordered at a cost of $62,500, and will be used to serve the Potts Camp and Galena schools, he said.

Randolph said it has been two years since the district ordered a new bus. He wants to order a few new buses every year to replace those that should be retired from the fleet, used as substitute buses or sold. The old gasoline and propane fueled buses are going to be phased out of the fleet as they become no longer road worthy, he said. Major work on the diesels will be done in Batesville but bus shop workers will also take care of routine maintenance on these new engines.

“The students are the most important commodity we have,” Randolph said last week as he and transportation director R.C. Anderson inspected the new equipment before it is put on the route.

He said school officials would be more relaxed when the new buses are used for athletic trips and other activities. These buses are equipped with all the safety features.

“When they leave home, we want to feel like they are going to get back home,” he said.

The special bus for the handicapped will arrive in February. It will carry 24 passengers and features four wheelchair tie-downs, eight seat belts equipped with harnesses and air conditioning.

Randolph said the school district expects to provide for more special needs students rather than transport them to Oxford.

Randolph climbed into the driver’s seat, touched the ignition and the diesel engine purred.

“I used to be an old hand at these. I would drive a school bus every day,” he said, adding that he and Anderson both drove buses every day while serving at H.W. Byers as principals.

Most school principals have commercial driver’s licenses so they can be substitute drivers, Randolph said.

“We’re always looking for new drivers,” he added.

Charlie Taylor supervises the bus shop. He has worked at the shop for over 20 years.

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