On Oct. 13, Richi Moats spoke before the Polk School District Board of Education requesting consideration to purchase two 90-passenger (3 students per seat) buses to alleviate several of the issues facing the transportation department for the school system.
Recently, overcrowding and unfortunate events have plagued the department, and Moats hopes that the Board will approve the purchase of the used buses from Taylor Motors for a total of $90,000. A decision is expected sometime this week.
Currently, a spare school bus is used for the county’s newest route, which handles Van Wert Elementary students in Rockmart.
Moats said that 14 children are forced to stand during morning and afternoon trips on three of the county’s town routes for lack of space. Although it is not illegal in the state of Georgia, the Polk School District Transportation Department believes that policies concerning standing students and seat belts on buses will be altered to reflect other states’ laws within the next two years.
According to Moats, several routes are intensely overcrowded, with some drivers making up to three trips along the same route, and some running as late as 4:45 p.m. in both Cedartown and Rockmart.
The Polk School District transports 5,200 students twice a day, and safety remains paramount to the county’s 62 drivers and 10 substitutes.
A number of recent events concerning the district’s bus system have made local and regional headlines, and include an Oct. 6 incident where a Polk school bus collided with a garbage truck and the tragic death of a Cedartown seventh grader after being struck by a bus on Sept. 9.
“School bus transport is not a business—it’s our business,” Moats said. “Our number one priority is the safety of our kids.”
Apart from spec standards enforced by the state, all Polk County buses are enhanced with several additional safety features, including strobe lighting, crossing lights, gates, and other warning devices to assist in preserving the safety and well-being of the children transported by bus to and from school.
“Superintendent (Marvin) Williams wants Polk County’s buses to be ‘spec plus’ and I agree,” laughed Moats. “These buses are safer than Georgia spec…they’re Polk spec.”
To further promote safety, the transportation department has a bus trainer on staff as well as a third party tester.
Each potential driver must attend 12 hours of time in the classroom, 12 hours of driving without students, and 12 hours of driving with students while being observed by the county’s bus trainer.
The prospective driver must then pass the license test and be approved by the Board before getting behind the wheel of one of Polk County’s buses.
Drivers also receive regular emergency and range training and attend annual state enrichment classes. The next enrichment class is scheduled for Oct. 27. Moats also hopes to reinstate the popular ‘Bus Road-e-o’, a fun annual event that tests and evaluates drivers’ skills.
With the decision to purchase the larger buses looming and the continued push for safety within the department, Moats and others are striving to retain the high level of quality of the county’s bus system.
“The Polk School District doesn’t transport kids,” said Polk School District Transportation Co-director Janna Ruark. “We transport tomorrow’s future.”