Bus inspection report comes out as school districts look for ways to fix buses

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — We trust them to get our children to and from school safely.

But new numbers show some districts in mid-Michigan are having a hard time keeping up with school bus repairs.

According to Michigan State Police, one in five school buses in the state failed their latest safety inspections.

It’s all part of the MSP’s annual safety report that looked at the buses over the last 2016-17 school year.

Here’s a look at how some local districts measured up.

Buses from both East Lansing and Okemos schools had no serious violations.

Lansing Public Schools only had one bus that was found to be unsafe to drive.

Charlotte had seven buses that were deemed unsafe.

Jackson Public Schools had 12 buses that were found to be unsafe for the road.

Jackson Superintendent Jeff Beal told 6 News that those buses were not in commission during the time of inspection but were still included in the report.

He also added that JPS has 20 percent surplus of buses beyond their daily needs that all passed inspection.

Bus violations in the report were all from last year, and the state requires violations to be repaired before buses can get back on the road.

Northwest Community Schools had 10 buses that needed serious attention last year.

The superintendent says Northwest is expecting that number to improve next year after handing over their entire fleet to a private bus company.

The recent report that shows buses in rough shape at Northwest Community Schools doesn’t come as a surprise to Superintendent Geoff Bontrager.

“Our bus fleet was aging. And it’s very expensive to keep a fleet up. That’s a huge budget aspect,” Bontrager said.

Bontrager says a change needed to be made.

So this summer the district decided to use a private transportation company to save money and provide better service.

“We don’t pretend to be a transportation company, Dean Transportation is. So for example if we have a couple buses that break down it’s not a big deal. Because Dean Transportation sends over two different buses and rotate through until those are fixed,” Bontrager said.

Dean Transportation serves more than 100 districts all over Michigan.

The company says their attention to detail makes sure buses stay safe.

“We’re able to bring our economies of scale to a local school district and provide new equipment, replace it on a regular basis, and really take that burden off of the school district to help them educate students and direct more resources back into the classroom,” said Patrick Dean, Vice President of Business Development for Dean Transportation.

With one in five buses failing safety inspections statewide and schools struggling to keep up with repairs on aging buses, Bontrager says districts need to make tough decisions about their priorities.

“They really have to decide if they’re in the transportation business or not. Because the bottom line is we want to make sure our kids are safe,” Bontrager said.

If you’d like to see how your local school district measures up visit this link:  http://www.michigan.gov/documents/msp/School_Bus_Inspection_Totals_For_School_Year_2017_-_Year_End_Totals_600252_7.pdf



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