The new buses are adaptable and change with the needs.

The new buses are adaptable and change with the needs.

School bus fleet gets upgrade

Part of a special report on education: Five of the six new buses purchased by the Kootenay Lake school district have been delivered, and several are already on the road around the region.

  • Mar. 8, 2011 9:00 a.m.

Five of the six new buses purchased by the Kootenay Lake school district have been delivered, and several are already on the road around the region.

After ignoring the SD8 fleet completely last year, the Ministry of Education gave the district almost $600,000 in capital funds to replace four regular and two special needs buses.

SD8 operations director Larry Brown says the school district normally replaces its buses after 10 years or 250,000 kilometres, but this time around it had a few vehicles in the fleet that were overdue for retirement.

“In fact, some of the ones we’re replacing are 300,000 km,” he says.

The four regular buses will take over the higher mileage routes throughout the district — the longest of which is almost 200 km a day. Four of the fleet’s oldest buses, meanwhile, will be sold.

Brown says the new buses are more fuel efficient than older models, and have extra safety features and GPS technology. They’re also easier to see in inclement weather.

“On the top in the back there’s a strobe light,” he explains.

“It’s a flashing white light, and that’s new. This is the first year it’s been approved. And you can really see it when you’re in conditions of fog or no light, that light shows up.”

But it’s the two special needs buses that get Brown most excited.

“This is the first special needs bus we’ve bought since the mid-1990s, so it’s big deal for us,” he explains.

The seats — which can hold up to 20 children — are all removable, and can be reconfigured as needed. Unlike most school buses, there’s also space to strap down luggage.

“So if we wanted to use it for a sports team on the weekend we can put all the seats in,” says Brown. “Or if we had half a dozen wheelchairs we wanted to take, we could take all the seats out.”

One special needs bus will stay on the Nelson side of the district, where there’s already a dedicated route. The other will go to Creston, where the board is looking at setting up a similar busing program.

About 50 per cent of the district’s students (or approximately 2,500 kids) take the bus to school.