Hillsborough Schools planning to buy 100 new buses - WFLA News Channel 8

Hillsborough Schools planning to buy 100 new buses

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It will take the Hillsborough County School Board six to eight months to take possession of 100 new buses, once the school district orders them. It will take the Hillsborough County School Board six to eight months to take possession of 100 new buses, once the school district orders them.
Superintendent Maryellen Elia met with board members at a workshop Wednesday morning to discuss the bus purchase and other transportation system issues. Superintendent Maryellen Elia met with board members at a workshop Wednesday morning to discuss the bus purchase and other transportation system issues.
It will take the Hillsborough County School Board six to eight months to take possession of 100 new buses, once the school district orders them.

This will likely take place after a June 10th board meeting. Superintendent Maryellen Elia met with board members at a workshop Wednesday morning to discuss the bus purchase and other transportation system issues.

After the meeting, Elia said the district has the money to purchase 100 new buses. Asked why school officials are waiting to order the buses, she said it's due process.

"It has to go before for a recommendation to the board and they have to be in a setting where they have advertised and have an agenda item that has been out in the public for seven days," said Elia. "June 10th is our next board meeting."

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 to 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.

Elia told board members 27 focus groups held throughout the county revealed a number of issues with the transportation department. Among those: equipment, repairs, facilities, communication, training, specialized transportation support, management and salary.

The superintendent says there are already changes in the works to address a number of those issues, and she's established an advisory group to get input from transportation workers on a daily basis.

School board members say they voted not to buy buses in previous years, to avoid layoffs and avoid cutting programs. Unfortunately, that coupled with the economy, was a decision that came back to haunt them.

"We are accountable because we made a conscious decision, all of us did, not to lay people off, to keep our money in the classroom, so the non business side suffered for that," said school board chairperson Carol Kurdell. "And it's obvious transportation suffered a great deal."

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