District busing adjusting to new three-tier busing system
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
Big Walnut Local School District’s transportation system is a roughly $2 million operation, said transportation supervisor Ron McClure. Twenty-four bus drivers and nine substitute drivers cover the school district’s 108 square miles, travelling a collective 2,500 miles each school day, transporting 1,400 students to and from school and events.
The district owns 35 school buses. One new special needs bus and one new 71 passenger bus should arrive in October — the old one’s will be traded in. The fleet is maintained by mechanics Pat O’Quinn and Steve Johnston.
“They’ve been very busy,” McClure said. “They got the inspections done at the end of July, the state inspects the entire fleet; plus we get spot inspections every year.”
But there’s a new twist this year as the district moves to a three-tier busing system. To accommodate the new busing system bell times have changed, and routes have also changed.
Every year drivers bid on the routes they want, McClure said. In the past most would keep their previous year’s routes, but as the district moved to the three-tier busing system drivers were allowed to re-bid on routes based on seniority.
“Drivers came in last Monday to bid on routes, and we drove the routes to be sure there are no issues or road closings,” McClure said. “Then we came back to the office and revamped the routes. After everything is changed and adjusted it goes to the school board meeting for approval.”
McClure said he’s accustomed to three-tier busing, it’s what’s always been done where he has worked before. He said one of the advantages of the new system is there will be no high school or middle school shuttles with students waiting on a bus shared with another school.
“We do anticipate problems during the first week or two of school,” McClure said. “There might be late buses, especially at the elementary schools, but we want to take our time and make sure kids are on the right bus, especially for the first two weeks.”
McClure asked parents to be patient until the new busing system smooths out; that even though school starts on a Wednesday, August 22, the school year’s first Monday, August 27, will be like the first day of school again because kindergarten comes online.
To accommodate problems that might arise during the first few days of school, McClure said a few spare buses with substitute drivers on board would be placed strategically around the district for emergency pick-ups.
“This is the first time the Big Walnut district is doing three-tier bussing, and our primary responsibility is the safety of the students — making sure they’re on the right buses and going in the right direction,” McClure said. “We would like for the students to be at the bus stops five minutes before their pick-up time as a safety issue. That way they’re not running across traffic or in front of a bus at the last minute.”
Why three-tier busing?
“It costs $50,000 to $75,000 to add a bus to the fleet,” McClure said. “With adding the new intermediate school we would need four new buses if we were on a two-tier bussing system. So this change alone saves $250,000 plus per year. That’s a pretty significant savings.”
Ron McClure worked at Southwestern City Schools for 22 years, Mason City Schools for three years, then worked for Peterson, a private school bus contractor, covering Pickerington and Groveport. McClure came on board with the district as an interim transportation supervisor in October of 2011.
For those who think their day begins early, McClure said his day typically begins at 6 a.m.; but when it’s snowing it’s not uncommon for him to be up and monitoring the weather at 2 a.m.
Parents can access bus route information using the school district’s password protected online website. If they have concerns they can call the transportation office at 740–965-8967.
To access the Big Walnut Transportation web page go to < bigwalnut.k12.oh.us > and click on Departments, then click Transportation in the drop-down menu.
Big Walnut Transportation Department
Ron McClure, Transportation Supervisor
105 Baughman Street, Suite A,
Sunbury OH 43074
The Big Walnut Bus Garage is located at 117 North Kintner Parkway in Sunbury.