Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 14, 2013

Schools look for changes in bus rules

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland County Board of Education tabled action on disposing of several buses, anticipating the state may change the law this year to allow schools to keep buses on the road longer.

"They've talked about allowing school systems to use buses for unlimited years, unlimited mileage, as long as they meet the safety requirements," said Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative. "I don't want to dispose of these if, in three or four months, they change it."

Transportation Supervisor Lane McAnally explained Tennessee limits bus age and mileage, with larger 78-passenger buses allowed to be used up to 17 years, so long as mileage does not exceed 200,000 miles. Schools can use other buses up to 15 years of service, but after 12 years, the state requires two inspections each year. Special needs buses are limited to 12 years

McAnnally had requested disposing of bus #40, with 101,602 miles; bus #61, with 125,969 miles; bus #62, with 99,082 miles; bus #63 with 151,250 miles, all of which were reported in good condition.

Also requested was surplus of #75 with 111,542 miles, bus #80 with 124,754 miles and bus #10-99, with around 200,000 miles.

Janeway said, "That bus with 99,000 miles, they could run it in Georgia for another 30 years and save a tremendous amount of money."

McAnnally questioned the safety of using buses for such extended lives. Janeway said studies didn't find a difference between Tennessee, which limits bus life, and other states, which all require annual inspections. There are only seven states that restrict school bus life, Janeway said.

Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, moved to table action on the surplus request until more information is available on possible legislative changes. Janeway requested a friendly amendment to go ahead and grant the surplus request for two motors, a pick-up truck and buses #75 and #80. For clarity, it was determined to surplus bus #10-99, as well.

The motion was approved.

The board also learned of staffing shortages in the transportation department, specifically for substitute bus drivers. Currently, teachers and staff members with a CDL license are helping to cover bus routes to ensure all children get to school.

Bob Scarbrough, chief financial officer for the school system, said the staff was looking at ways to help recruit and retain drivers, including possibly offering some reimbursement for those getting their CDL license. That can cost up to $225, depending on the cost of the physical exam.

Coaches with CDLs are also encouraged to act as the bus driver for their teams when possible. Janeway wanted the board to take a close look at that in the future and possibly provide some compensation for coaches taking on that extra responsibility.

McAnally has requested changing the substitute driver pay to $60 per day, with no monthly bonus if they drive 10 or more days. Currently, substitute drivers get a $100 bonus if they drive every day they are asked during a month. Those driving less than 10 days would still qualify for the bonus.

McAnally also wants to consider utilizing benefits for full-time subs that work daily but have no benefits.

"It's really a challenge to get drivers," said Director of Schools Donald Andrews. "We will bring some ideas to the board in the near future to solidify a smoother transition to get children one place to another."

Scarbrough also updated the board on the financial statements, showing sales tax collections were $27,000 below budget for the fiscal year. He also re-presented budget amendments reviewed last month, noting corrections that had been made in some of the figures.

In other business, the board approved:

•Stone Elementary fundraisers, Stone's Got Talent, set Sept. 23 at the Palace Theatre; sale of Smart Cards to benefit the athletic department; sale of Mt. Empire's Cookie Dough to supplement the schools general operation funds; Zaxby's nights to benefit Stone Elementary; McTeacher Night at Peavine Rd. McDonald's Oct. 22, 5 to 8 p.m.; the Stone Elementary Fall Festival Oct. 4; and yearbook ad sales to support the production of the memory book.

•County-wide beauty pageant to support the purchase of basketball uniforms for the Martin Elementary varsity and junior varsity girls and boys teams, set Nov. 9 and open to all county schools, kindergarten through 12th grade.

•Grant application from South Cumberland Elementary to the Volunteer Energy VECustomers Share program for the garden club to purchase equipment and supplies.

•Grant application from Crab Orchard Elementary to the Volunteer Energy VECusomters Share program to purchase frosted coverings for exterior windows and doors at the school.

•Bid specifications for the school nutrition program for a five-well hot food counter, frost top counter and a cashier's counter.

•Overnight and out-of-state field trip for South Cumberland eighth-grade students to Washington, DC May 13-17.

•Overnight and out-of-state field trip for Pine View Elementary sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, May 14-18.