At the USD 375 School Board meeting Wednesday, Towanda resident James Shaults expressed anger to the board about the condition of the districts’ buses.
Shaults has a son on the Circle High School wrestling team.
The weekend prior to the meeting, the wrestling team had a tournament at Flinthills. The temperature was in the single digits when the team loaded on to the bus in the morning.
The bus’s heater didn’t work.
When the bus driver realized the first bus’s heater wasn’t working, she changed buses. By that time, the team needed to leave and the second bus didn’t have time to warm up. The team endured the 45-minute trip to Flinthills in a cold bus.
“I want you all to think of yourself as a parent; putting your son on a school bus provided by the district without any heat... on the coldest day of the year – 4 degrees. You can understand how upset I am about this. It’s uncalled for,” Shaults said.
Shaults asked the board for an explanation. He wanted to know why this happened even though the district has a new activity bus.
“Why are we providing the oldest bus in the whole system – a route bus – to these athletes?” Shaults asked. “We had our 106 pounder and our 113 pounder wrapped in blankets. You can’t do that to wrestlers, and you can’t do that to any athletes or kids.”
Shaults said not having heat on the buses was neglect.
“To do that [not provide heat] to a kid is neglect,” he said. “I used to coach at this high school. If you coach you have to go through a certain thing, and if you notice neglect we have to turn them in. If you notice neglect as a teacher, than you have to turn them into the SRS. Well you’ve neglected my son to give him heat. Every time there is a problem it’s pushed under the rug. I’m upset.”
Superintendent Jim Johnson explained what he was told by the transportation director.
“The first bus was broken and she had to get a second bus. It did take a while for that bus to warm up because it was very cold. She did provide a second bus with a heater that worked,” Johnson said.
The board debated the issues with the heaters and also the district’s policy about allowing food on the bus since Shaults also raised that issue.
Page 2 of 2 - After the public forum, the board heard from administrators about the high school construction.
The first phase of the construction – excavation, grading and electrical – has begun at the high school. Part of the next phase of construction will be to collect the building materials.
The board approved that bids be made on reinforced steel for construction.
Later in the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Michael Janzen brought the discussion back to the district’s bus fleet.
“Last year we started talking about our transportation fleet. The immediate need at that time was a maintenance vehicle and an activity vehicle. We did that,” Janzen said. “But a lot of the bus buying got far behind. We do need a couple new route buses.”
Janzen said bus prices have increased and the price for a new bus would be between $80,000 and $90,000.
The board approved bids to begin being made to buy new buses.