Cleveland Schools buying special needs bus

Cleveland Schools buying special needs bus

December 2nd, 2012 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

IF YOU GO

The Cleveland school board meets at the city school administration building at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland City Schools officials expect to have another bus for special-needs students on the road by January.

On Friday, the school system issued a $49,950 purchase order to Oklahoma-based National Bus Sales for a 2009 model, 18-passenger bus with 28,000 miles on the odometer. A comparable new bus would cost about $85,000, said Paul Ramsey, energy education specialist for Cleveland schools.

The model year was a key concern in the choice, transportation officials said. Models built before 2009 do not meet current seat belt regulations and would require modifications.

Earlier last6 week, the Cleveland school board agreed to take emergency bids to acquire a small bus quickly.

The short bidding period -- which ended Friday morning -- attracted only one other offer, but that bus was older, had more mileage and was more expensive, Ramsey said.

The current fleet of eight special service buses has come under excessive strain, he said during a special meeting with the school board. The fleet's one spare bus has been put into route rotation, which creates extra challenges for the transportation department and the families of special-needs students when vehicles break down.

"It's embarrassing to have to call parents and say we can't pick their child up tomorrow because we have a bus broken down," Ramsey said. "We figure out a way to take care of them, whether it's pick them up later or they're generous enough to take the child to school. We're very blessed to have the cooperation of these parents."

The special services fleet creates concerns under normal circumstances, primarily because of multiple and varying routes and schedules, officials said.

"Logistics is very difficult," said Hal Taylor, director of maintenance and transportation for Cleveland City Schools. "It's constantly changing every day, varying the routes by 30 minutes or 45 minutes."

In other business, the school system is ramping up plans for a new elementary school.

The school board's site committee is expected to recommend the full board consider a 19-acre plot along Georgetown Pike as a possible site. A 15-acre site on Hardwick Farms, near North Lee Highway, has been under review for more than a year.

Principals recently shared recommendations offered by their faculties and staffs for creating an ideal new school. Common suggestions included more open spaces, natural lighting and restrooms placed close to K-2 classrooms.

A critical design issue will be to plan the facility so it can accommodate expected growth without compromising spaces dedicated to music, arts and other purposes.