Filling up

Students at Emerson Elementary start filling up buses as the school day ends Thursday. In line are Deven Dougherty, Caleb Sloan, and Haley Sloan. If the school bond issue passes, there will be newer buses for future Duncan students.

Duncan school buses transport about 1,800 students a day, and the longest bus route is 45 total miles, one way.

In the proposed Duncan Public Schools bond issue coming up for election on Sept. 13, of $41 million total issue, about $2 million is earmarked for transportation. If the bond passes, a portion of the transportation money will go toward buses and auxiliary vehicles, and what remains is earmarked for relocating the Transportation Department and the district’s bus barn.

Superintendent Sherry Labyer said, “It’s important to keep a transportation bond going, because it allows us to rotate our rolling stock.”

The bond issue is actually comprised of two bond propositions that are voted on individually.

The first proposition includes the capital improvement items (including the Duncan High School renovations and technology upgrades) and some transportation items. Transportation items On Proposition No. 1 include auxiliary vehicles (maintenance vehicles, two four-door sedans, a van with lift and two Suburbans) and the relocation of the Transportation Department and bus barn.

On Proposition II, voters cast ballots that would result in five regular school buses, two handicapped buses and two small buses. Because of a state law, school buses have to be voted on separately than other bond issue items.

The buses would be purchased through general obligation bonds over a five-year period. General obligation bonds give school districts a set amount of money at a time to work on a project, such as purchasing a couple of buses one year and then more buses once those bonds are paid off. Labyer said this prevents buses from aging at the same rate and having to be replaced at the same time.

The transportation items on Proposition I would be purchased through lease revenue bonds, through which the district is able to borrow the money up front to accomplish larger projects. From there, the district pays back the bonds over the course of 10 years.

Labyer said the majority of the items dealing with transportation will be replacements for vehicles with high mileage, reveling there are some 2002 model buses with more than 80,000 miles on them. By the end of the school year, they will have more than 100,000 miles.

“When they get over 100,000 miles, we start paying close attention to what we put on the road,” Labyer said. “Our buses accumulate a lot of miles, just daily wear and tear.”

The district’s 2006 buses have between 60 to 70,000 miles. The 2008 models have 44,000 miles. And the 2010 models have between 15 and 23,000 miles. In all, there are nine 2010 buses.

“Our buses are in good shape because we take good care of them. We’re glad to have the 2010 models from a bond in 2009,” the superintendent noted.

Although the school buses are used frequently for students, the school’s Suburbans also get used quite a bit. “The school Suburbans are used for students as well as faculty,” Labyer said. “They’re used when a bus is not needed, like when we send faculty to professional development.

“It’s important to keep with low mileage with our students and educators on the road.”

Aside from buses and various vehicles, the bond will also include relocating the Transportation Department and the bus barn. One of the reasons for this is the bus barn is located in a flood zone.

A flood in May 2007, damaged several buses and school district vehicles. By moving the bus barn, the vehicles will be less likely to be damaged as a result of flooding.

While possible sites for the bus barn and Transportation relocation have been explored, no properties have yet been selected.

While moving the bus barn is to prevent the possibility of flood-related damage, Labyer said the biggest issue is safety of Duncan High School students and other people who are on the school’s property. The bus barn is located just south of Halliburton Stadium, and there is concern about the safety of students at the stadium, with buses leaving the bus barn throughout the day.

“Safety is job one for us,” Labyer said. “That includes transportation.”

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