AVON LAKE — Avon Lake will be the first school district in the county, and second in the state behind Beachwood, to add school buses with seat belts.
Avon Lake City Council approved the final reading unanimously Monday evening voicing their full support of Avon Lake Schools establishing the Seat Belt Pilot Program. Ward 4 Councilman David Kos said he hoped the time before the program will be regarded as an unsafe bygone era like unsafe playground equipment or smoking in hospitals.
“I think that there will come a time — several years from now, hopefully not too long — in the future where we’re going to say, ‘Wow, there was a time we didn’t have seat belts on school buses,’” Kos said.
Avon Lake School Board of Education approved the purchase of two 72-passenger school buses Feb. 12 for the cost of about $92,900 each from the district’s permanent improvement plan. Avon Lake Board of Education received bids in October through the Ohio Schools Council.
In December, Beachwood City Council adopted a similar ordinance to Avon Lake Schools’ resolution.
The district mostly will use the buses for long-distance traveling like field trips where the bus would be on the highway at high speeds, said Avon Lake School Superintendent Bob Scott.
“The compartmentalization of buses is great, buses are heavy, it’s a really safe form of transportation but without a doubt there are some weak areas, and we just decided two years ago that we wanted to see for ourselves,” Scott said.
Local bus safety advocate Dr. Rudy Breglia attended the Council meeting as well as the February board of education meeting for Avon Lake. Kos commended Breglia and the school district for their efforts for the program and school bus safety.
Since 2016, Breglia has been to about 25 school districts around the state to advocate for seat belts in school buses. His campaign started after a 2016 school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, left six students dead and more than 20 injured when the bus rolled on its side. Avon Lake received a letter of recognition from Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, in April 2018, who helped sponsor a bill for similar protections on motor coaches in 2011.
Seeing Beachwood and Avon Lake take the first steps in Ohio was a great thing, Breglia said.
“I feel great, this is real progress,” he said. “I think it’s a turning point for Ohio, between Avon Lake and Beachwood, going ahead and funding seat belts in their new replacement school buses, it’s a real plus,” he said.
Breglia said the cost of fitting a new bus with seat belts adds about 8 to 10 percent to the purchase price of a new bus, which figures out to be about $5 per student over the bus’ 16-year lifespan.
The new buses are expected to arrive over the summer and be used in the fall. The two purchases are a pilot and will determine whether or not the district will replace more next year, Scott said. The district usually replaces a bus every one to two years.