Hillsborough inches toward new school buses - WFLA News Channel 8

Hillsborough inches toward new school buses

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

The Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent, MaryEllen Elia, will meet with school board members today to discuss moving forward with new buses. The group will discuss the feedback from 27 focus groups with the superintendent and transportation employees.

Last Wednesday, Tom Platt with School Bus Consultants presented his report to the school board, Elia, and other school officials."I emphasize at this point, the fleet is safe, the fleet is operating," said Platt. "But, and the big 'but' is: your fleet is old."

The report shows 25 percent of the district's fleet is 15 years old. The maximum bus age should be 12-15 years old. Platt said there are also issues in the transportation department with maintenance and morale.

"The staffing shortages in conjunction with the aging fleet are the dominant contributing factors," said Platt.

Superintendent Elia agrees with the report's findings and tells News Channel 8 buying buses to replace the aging fleet is in order.

"We need to buy buses. That's a huge deal. It's important for us to do that," said Elia. "But I think most importantly, I think you all heard, our consultant indicated that we have safe buses in this district."

School board member April Griffin has been critical of the transportation department after a number of employees contacted her with complaints. She disagrees with the consultant's assessment of the fleet.

"When buses are spontaneously combusting, and we're having to offload children in an emergency scenario, and buses are out on the road and brakes aren't working, our children aren't safe," said Griffin. "Our bus drivers aren't safe, and people on the road aren't safe."

The Superintendent plans to make her recommendation to the board in terms of how many buses and where to get the money, in June. "It takes somewhere between six to seven months to get a bus," Elia said. "We're hoping to move that as quickly as possible and work with the company to get the quickest delivery date possible."

8 on Your Side called Blue Bird, a bus company, to see how long it takes to get buses after the district places the order. Chris Rustman, with Florida Transportation Systems told us that if the district orders buses by the end of June, they would have them by October 1.

Stay with WFLA.com for more on this developing story.

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