South-Western to add new buses to its transportation fleet

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

South-Western City School officials have ordered new vehicles for one of its most vital service departments.

At its meeting on Feb. 12, the board of education announced it had accepted a bid from Cardinal Bus Sales and Service Inc. that will allow the district to obtain 10 new school buses for the transportation department at a cost of $1.18 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, the district will receive:
•Four 78-passenger school buses
•Three 48-passenger buses with lifts
•Two 30-passenger buses with lifts
•One 30-passenger bus

The board will also allocate an additional $29,400 to provide radio mounting services with programming and digital video systems for each of the new school buses.

The resolution to approve the purchase of 10 new school buses does not mean there is an immediate need to replace any of the buses within the fleet, say district officials. Instead, the move to purchase new school buses is part of the annual replacement cycle to maintain the strength of the fleet.

“While the oldest bus in our fleet currently dates back to 2006, it is important to continue to cycle in new models that will come with less routine maintenance needs and generally increased safety features,” said Evan Debo, the district’s executive director of communications.

The district believes the new buses could arrive next year but they have not received a specific time frame from Cardinal Bus Sales and Service Inc. as it pertains to the actual delivery.

“At this juncture, lead times on the production and delivery of new buses vary based on the type,” said Debo. “Some may be in a few months, while others may be well into 2025; however, starting the ordering process now helps to ensure that we do not extend such wait times moving forward and stay on time with our vehicle replacement cycle.”

Overall, the district says the transportation department’s school bus fleet is in good condition.

“The current state of the fleet itself is in relatively great shape thanks to the district’s ability to leverage grant and financial resources over time with our natural replacement cycles,” said Debo. “In particular, heading into the 2021 school year we were able to replace approximately 13.8 percent of our fleet most recently.”

According to Debo, the district currently has 210 school buses in its fleet. They include:
•66 84-passenger buses
•26 78-passenger buses
•66 77-passenger buses
•47 ADA accessible buses
•Eight Microbuses
•Three 65-passenger buses

A majority of the fleet was built after the year 2015.

In other news related to the transportation department, the district is seeking substitute bus drivers for the current school year and for the upcoming school year.

At its meeting last month, transportation supervisor Tim Cox reported that the district currently has 18 substitute bus drivers – eight of which are solely designated as field trip drivers.

The district is currently covering a majority of the expenses to help those seeking employment as a substitute bus driver obtain their Commercial Drivers License. They are currently offering full-time bus drivers $21.39 per hour. Substitute bus drivers currently receive $19.32 per hour with lump sum bonuses of $500, $750, and $1,000 if they are on the job for 50 days, 100 days, and 150 days, respectively.

Those who have an interest in becoming a substitute bus driver are encouraged to reach out to the district through its website at swcsd.us for job opportunities.

In other news from the Feb. 12 meeting, the board approved a resolution authorizing the district to seek bids for a contract to replace the walk-in cooler and freezer at Jackson Middle School. According to Debo, the district will utilize funds from the food services department to cover the cost of the project. It is expected that the project will cost at least $50,000.

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