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Roundup: The School Year Begins

Life isn’t supposed to be easy. Makes it all worthwhile if there’s a bit a struggle, the reward at the end much more satisfying. School has started again and so districts still must shake out the cobwebs that have built up over the summer. Operations, like life, will never run as smooth as intended. Take for instance how the Kansas City Public School District terminated its contract with Daye Transportation in response multiple buses being pulled from service after surprise inspections.

“It does put you at an alarming concern because they are carrying our kids to and from school,” said Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri Highway Patrol. “We want to make sure these buses are safe because they are carrying our precious cargo.” Eight of the buses were pulled out of service because of serious violations that included problems with emergency back doors, problems with stop arms and low tread on the tires. Another eight buses had minor problems that were fixed following the inspection allowing them to continue to be in service. Only three of the 19 buses fully passed inspection. “This is obviously something we can’t accept. The safety of our kids is obviously paramount,” said KCPS spokeswoman Natalie Allen. “Ultimately, we’re really happy the Transit Authority is doing their job and our kids weren’t on the buses that were deemed unsafe.”

For Omaha Public Schools, the start of school has seen an unprecedented number of busing delays, which have been markedly worse than usual, stranding kids at bus stops and requiring parents to pitch in on drop-off duty. Superintendent Mark Evans voiced frustration with Student Transportation of America. “We expected a few glitches, maybe, because it’s the start of the school year, but we did not expect to have this level,” Evans said. “We’re paying a lot of money, and we expect better service for it.” The busing contract cost OPS $22.3 million during the 2014-15 school year. More recent figures were not immediately available. In a statement, STA spokeswoman Lynette Viviani said the company was “working around the clock with OPS and other officials to rectify this situation” and asked for patience. She pointed to a nationwide bus driver shortage and said it’s been especially difficult filling jobs in Omaha. A new regulatory requirement also has lengthened the time it takes for bus drivers to get certified after being trained, she said. Evans said in past years that there have been some driver shortages. At the beginning of August, STA didn’t indicate any major problems, but the night before school was set to resume, the company revealed it was down a significant number of drivers. Some drivers who had agreed to work earlier in the year may not have shown up, OPS officials said. Currently, there was a reported shortage of 65 drivers, leaving some routes unassigned. Other buses showed up late to bus stops and schools. In past years, driver shortages at the start of the school year may have totaled 30, OPS officials said. “Clearly, we wish we would have found out before this week,” Evans said.

To shift gears, perhaps towards saving the planet, it has been reported that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is going to spend $1.4 million to fund a pilot program that will test the viability of using electric school buses from Lion Bus. The money will benefit four school systems within the state and includes electric charging stations for the buses. The state’s Department of Energy Resources expects each bus to save nearly 23,000 gallons of fuel annually while providing a zero emissions environment for the school children on board. “Massachusetts schools are leading the way by testing clean and resilient energy technology that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “This innovative project will also reduce fuel costs and aid our commitment to a cleaner future for the Commonwealth.”

Every person possesses a tiny voice that lets them know whether or not their behavior is right or wrong. Most people choose to listen to that voice. A small fraction of humanity, however, does not adhere to the advice given by that voice of reason. Perhaps they ignore the voice. Perhaps that voice doesn’t even exist. In either case, this tiny portion of the population can ruin a perfectly normal day, such as the start of school. Take for instance, 58-year-old David Scott, who by all means should know that one does not walk up to a bus stop and flash his junk at students and passing motorists. Scott’s internal voice of reason was out to lunch as it was reported walked up to a Florida bus stop, pulled down his pants and began shaking his hips at everyone who was around. He was arrested and charged with Exposure of Sexual Organ. It turned out that Scott was arrested for doing the exact same thing at another location. The suspect is currently in jail and awaiting sentencing.

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