HOUSTON – Of the approximately 1,800 students in the Houston School District almost 1,600 ride a bus to school at least once a day.
The addition of seven new Thomas school buses to the district’s fleet was a big expenditure, but one that will make transportation of students more reliable, safer and ultimately save money, too.
“I don’t think people realize how critical school bus transportation is to education in this community,” said Houston Assistant Superintendent Chad Spence. “Students have to get to school before they can be taught.”
Spence also pointed out it had been more than seven years since Houston had purchased a bus. He said the district patched and repaired old buses as long as possible.
“I think trustees realized it had gotten to be a safety issue as well as a maintenance expense issue,” said Spence. “The state had told us to get our 1995-99 buses off the road. We have some buses that are almost 20 years old.”
The seven new V-6 diesel buses were 75,839.36 each. The 530.875.52 total was financed by a $1.5 million note secured by district facilities.
School Bus Maintenance Director Toy Coleman said he had buses that were just wearing out.
“We’ve got rural roads that are tough on tie-rods, brakes and the suspension,” said Coleman. “We had also gotten to the point were we were having to replace engines and transmission because we couldn’t fix them anymore.”
Coleman said it had gotten to the point where when a bus broke down carrying students to an extra-curricular event that they contacted a nearby district and paid to have the students brought back to Houston.
Coleman said Houston has a fleet of 33 buses and an additional 11 buses are used by the Chickasaw County School District to transport students in an around Houlka.
Spence said the new buses will allow the district to retire several vehicles.
“We are also working with the state and the local emergency management agency to see if we can donate one of our old buses to them,” said Spence. “To say this community has gotten their money out of these vehicles in an understatement.”
Spence said the new buses can carry up to 70 kids with city routes averaging about 55 students.
“And those buses roll twice a day to pickup and carry home kids,” said Spence. “I think more than anything this will give our driver’s and parents peace of mind.
“Our band, our sports teams and of course our students are on these buses,” said Spence. “It was just time for new vehicles.”