Port Aransas ISD near Corpus Christi, Texas received four school buses from North East ISD in San Antonio to replace vehicles damaged last month by Hurricane Harvey.
North East ISD Executive Director of Transportation Jack De Forrest told STN “it was a pleasure” to assist Port Aransas. Nort East ISD drivers and staff made the 350-mile round trip to the Gulf Coast over the weekend to deliver the model-year 2000 International chassis with Blue Bird school bus bodies.
De Forrest said he grew up near Corpus Christi, and having lived through several severe hurricanes he knew even before Harvey hit that the area would need North East ISD's assistance.
The North East ISD staff identified the four 17-year-old school buses being prepared for auction as viable candidates for a local district. The buses were being phased out of the fleet via the 15-year replacement cycle, with an incoming order of 45 new school buses at the dealer. So he informed members of the Gulf Coast Association for Pupil Transportation that the school buses were looking for a new home.
"They were leaving our fleet one way or another," De Forrest said.
A Port Aransas ISD representative at the meeting expressed interest, as the district’s three total buses were damaged by the storm surge as well as the collapse of a bus barn. The district was borrowing a school district from nearby Flour Bluff ISD and Gregory Portland ISD to transport away its 1,700 students while cleaning up and rebuilding its own campuses.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you let us donate four so you have a spare?’ She was elated we could do four buses,” De Forrest recalled. “She said, ‘Our basketball team will now have a bus to go to Friday night games.’”
A North East ISD spokeswoman said the San Antonio district operates a total fleet of 450 buses, with 350 of those on routes.
North East ISD not only donated the four buses but in a matter of five days maintenance staff inspected all batteries, alternators, hoses and belts, making any necessary part replacements, and changed the oil on the 30-quart DT 466 engines, which De Forrest added was no inexpensive task. Port Aransas ISD also received the buses with their diesel tanks topped off and its district name already on the sides.
"Other than their insurance coverage, those buses were ready to run routes the minute they got them," De Forrest said. "We didn’t want to deliver a bus that became a headache to them."
"Other than location and number of students, we’re all doing the same thing," he added of the state’s 1,247 school district transportation departments. "We are just trying to take care of family."
Read the October magazine edition for more on how Hurricane Harvey in Texas as well as Hurricane Irma in Florida affected school bus operations, and how student transporters helped in evacuations and relief efforts.