Bus problems have become an unfortunate way of life for Chatham County parents.
But the question has now come up, did the school system know how bad these issues were and ignored them?
That’s stemming from an audit of First Student and the entire SCCPSS bus fleet last November.
The report is just 11 pages long, but outlines dozens if not hundreds of flaws, problems and potentially dangerous defects with Savannah-Chatham County School System buses.
It’s a scathing indictment of First Student, the company that used to run the buses. It also brings a lot of questions up about the safety of your kids on their way to school for the months those buses were still on the streets.
The words jump off the page. Hood busted. Crossing gate bent. Stop arm removed. Oil leak.
Those are just some of the problems outlined in a fleet assessment report last November by an outside consultant, and echoed by one bus driver just last month.
“If we complained too much they just assigned the bus to someone else,” explained Edith Dunlap. “And the person they assigned it to had no idea what was going on 25:59
“Yes action was taken,” SCCPSS Superintendent Dr Thomas Lockamy told News 3. “Several directives were given to First Student transportation at the time, my director of transportation was also told to monitor the repairs that needed to be done.
But what were those directives? And how much did the schoolboard know, or try to change?
When MV Transportation took over the bus contract from First student in July, the company said that “30 buses wouldn’t start” “More than 80 had inoperable wheelchair lifts” and there were no maintenance inspections since March.
“I think every parent is going to say how could you put my child on these buses.”
“The bus was not unsafe,” explained Dr Lockamy. “They were certified by the Department of Transportation. They had the sticker that they were.”
But those guidelines Dr Lockamy is talking about are described as “minimum standards” with a focus on “brakes, tires and steering” – and “ignored emergency exits, stop arms and warning lights”.
When MV did their own assessment they found 54 of the first 65 buses should have been taken off the streets entirely.
“The new provider (MV Transportation) has a different standard,” sid Dr Lockamy. “(It) is looking at a National standard not a Georgia standard. That’s where the conflict comes of is the bus safe isn’t the bus safe.”
“I believe First Student was doing everything they could after the audit to make it correct. I think what had happened over time is that they failed to maintain the fleet as they should have. The buses were not to that point that you needed to terminate on the spot.”
“But they were late, kids weren’t getting picked up.”
“So how do you get them to school?” said the Superintendent.
“I would imagine there would be some emergency protocol in place that would have prevented kids from being put in those buses.”
“Kids were not on unsafe buses at that point to the point of life and death,” said Lockamy.
As for whether the Schoolboard knew about all this, Dr Lockamy said he explained the audit to the board back in December.
But Schoolboard President Jolene Byrne told the Savannah Business Journal she saw the report for the first time this week, almost eight months after it was issued.
News 3 tried to get in touch with Byrne and with representatives from First Student, but haven’t heard back from either.
For More details: