AVON LAKE — On Thursday morning, school board members boarded one of the district’s two new buses, sat in the seats and tested out its seat belts.
The buses are part of a pilot program reviewing the use of buses with seat belts in Ohio.
District Superintendent Bob Scott said they replace two retiring buses in the fleet of 34 buses. The district’s buses on average have a life span of 16 years, he said.
“Buses are safe, that’s why you take kids back and forth to school in buses, it’s some of the safest forms of transportation there is. The seat belts just add another layer,” he said. “We know that if there is a weakness, it’s a side impact or a rollover that the compartmentalization of buses can’t take care of. So this is a chance for us to take care of and do our own research.”
Avon Lake School Board of Education approved the purchase of the two new school buses Feb. 12 for about $92,000 each.
The buses cost more than a regular bus, but Scott said they have more safety features.
Bob Conrady, the school district head mechanic, said there are slight changes that bring the buses well into the 21st century.
“The technology is evolving as fast as they can get it pushed through the state to allow it on a school bus,” he said.
The new buses use regular gasoline instead of diesel. Gasoline engines are much cheaper to maintain, Conrady said, and it’s easier to find fuel while traveling.
The buses also have disc brakes instead of hydraulic brakes, which provide better stopping power. They also have a built-in camera with a microphone in the rear of the bus to give drivers a better view behind the bus than they get with rear-view mirrors.
Each seat has three over-the-shoulder seat belts that can secure three younger children or two older children comfortably.
The buses arrived in early June and will be used next school year in the fall. For the first year, the district will use the buses for long-distance traveling like field trips in which the bus would be on the highway at high speeds, Scott said. Later they also might be used on the school transportation routes. The district’s buses transport children in prekindergarten through eighth grade.
If the pilot program is deemed successful, Scott said, the district could replace more buses as they reach retirement age.