City schools working to ready buses and drivers for the start of the school year
By Denise Dick
City school buses will deliver children safely to their respective schools and back home despite an Ohio Department of Education report scolding the district for its transportation department.
At a school board work session Tuesday, member Jackie Adair expressed annoyance that she didn’t learn about an ODE report on the city schools’ transportation problems until she read it in The Vindicator on Sunday.
The report lists numerous shortcomings including incomplete driver and vehicle maintenance records, nonexistent vehicle repair records and no documentation of required bus driver training drivers.
“Why did I, as a board member, have to learn about it in The Vindicator?” Adair said.
CEO Krish Mohip said he did inform the board about the problems during an executive session.
Adair, though, said the extent of the problems wasn’t conveyed.
Mohip said the state is working with the district to ensure the buses and drivers are ready for the start of the school year.
“I don’t need buses to be ready just for inspection day,” he said. “I need our buses to be safe 365 days a year.”
Mohip said he’s not interested in blaming someone – that can occur in an executive session with the board.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “This can never happen again.”
Transportation personnel also are being trained to use the software that’s already in the department. It allows parents to locate buses so children aren’t waiting for the bus out in the cold longer than necessary. The system also allows the district to see how long a driver is at one location, whether or not they use the bus’s stop signs, if they speed or veer from their route.
It will also require drivers to walk the length of the bus upon parking it, ensuring no children are left on board.
“It’s not to catch anyone not doing their job,” the CEO said. “It’s to ensure our children are safe.”
Stephen Stohla, interim superintendent, pointed out that the problems date back several years, but no one has given him a report on it.
“I’m stunned that I didn’t learn about it until now,” he said.
When the state reviewers were in the district they couldn’t find the documentation showing that buses were trained so all of district bus drivers had to get recertified, Stohla said.
The drivers have completed training, but because of the recertification, they have to get background checks through the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Proof of those successful background checks hasn’t come back for all drivers.
That means Youngstown Early College students, who return to school next week, will be transported by Community Bus Services.
The district already contracts with that company for some of its transportation needs. School starts for the rest of the district’s students Aug. 22.