COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Some of them are old and known to catch fire, but as the state looks at replacing the bad ones, Richland Two's operations director has another problem on his mind – he needs more school buses.
"In terms of our fleet, our biggest need is additional buses. We have a very difficult time getting our kids to where we want to go on time based on the amount of buses that we have," Will Anderson, the operations director said.
Richland Two has 129 buses but needs about 139, because what they have now isn't enough.
"We triple-route every route. That means buses start their day at a middle school route. That same bus then picks up elementary students up. Then, that same bus goes and picks high school students up. And in some cases, at elementary schools in particular, they'll d rop off an elementary school and then turn right back around and get more elementary students," Anderson said.
Anderson said delays are not only occasional – they're common when four loads of students depend on just one bus.
"If something happens at the very beginning of that route, it compounds and impacts every other route," he said.
Which means bad traffic, engine trouble, or even a driver out sick can cause dozens of students to be late to class. Richland Two's smartphone app spells out the turmoil each day.
Thursday, around a dozen buses were late to school, and more than that were delayed in d ropping kids off at home.
"It's really difficult for the schools and students and parents," Anderson said.
Anderson asked the state recently for about a dozen additional buses and only got two in return. Both were more than 20 years old.
Even though the Department of Education is tasked with spending money to replace old buses, according to a spokesman, "the replacement cycle does not take into account additional buses needed for statewide growth in the student population."
So what's the answer? Right now, sources have said there isn't an easy one. Some hope lawmakers will look at funding buses better than they do currently.