Over the course of five years, the AISD is ordering 114 new school buses, funded by the 2014 Bond package. These new buses contain a variety of features that enhance the overall safety of the AISD’s fleet.
The AISD already has 36 of the new buses, all manufactured by Blue Bird, and 23 more have been ordered. Ultimately the new buses will replace 96 older ones and add 18.
Melinda Bunch, AISD safety tech in the transportation department, has been with the district for 25 years, with 11 in her current position. She said the new buses, combined with excellent training for drivers, have vastly improved safety for the AISD’s students. “We do training all during the school year with the employees, and we are always looking for more training programs to add,” Bunch said. “Student safety is the number one priority for AISD.”
Bunch pointed out that the buses keep getting better every year, and the newest Blue Birds include a number of features that make them safer. While not all the features are brand new to buses, they have been improved and made more effective. Safety features include:
- Child Minders – Though not a new feature, and already included on all AISD buses, it has been improved and made more effective on the new buses. The child minder system is designed to ensure that no child is left on an empty bus. The school bus driver is required to walk to the back of the bus – checking that there are no students still on board – and push a button at the rear before he or she can get off. If the driver tries to get off before pushing the button at the rear, a loud alarm will sound and continue until the button is pushed. “It’s a better system for making sure no child is left behind on the bus,” Bunch said.
- Emergency exits – All buses have exits at the front and rear, but now the rear exit doors include a Midland bar, which keeps the door open after the first person has exited. The buses also include two ceiling hatches, along with window emergency exits. The window exits open easily. Simply grip and lift the handle and then push out.
- Safer seats – The seats on the new buses have higher backs and more padding to provide a crash pad in the event of a sudden stop.
- Better electric mirrors for improved driver visibility
- Signals – The new buses now have two stop signs on the left side, instead of just one, which extend when the bus is stopped and loading. And the rear of the buses have anLED-lit stop sign that flashes and also reads, “Caution,” “Stopping,” or “Do Not Pass.”
- Propane – Many of the new buses run on propane, which burns considerably cleaner than diesel.
- LED lights – The new buses use LED lights, which last much longer than traditional bulbs.
- GPS – The Zonar system, now installed on all AISD busses, will, once fully operational, provide real-time tracking of students when they enter and exit the bus. A Zonar feature that is already operational is GPS, which lets the transportation department know exactly where all buses are at all times.
Forty-three of the new bond-funded buses are or will serve special education students. These buses have several additional safety features, including:
- Seat belts for all seats
- Built-in car seats for children up to 90 pounds
- Lift Switch – The lift switch must be on for the lift to operate. While the switch is on, the bus is locked in its position and will not move.
- Photo-optic sensor on the lift – The lift, which can accommodate up to 900 pounds, is equipped with a sensor that detects if anyone enters the lift area and emits a warning sound.
The 2014 Bond package is making a huge impact on AISD transportation. With the new buses it is funding, the transportation department is improving on its number one priority – student safety. [See photos of the AISD’s new vehicles.]