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Wake School Buses Bring Home a Poor Report Card

Posted April 2, 2007

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— Wake County Schools landed at the bottom of a state inspection report on school bus safety, and it’s unfamiliar territory for a system that often tops lists for education standards.

Officials in the district, where 68,000 pairs of young feet board a bus every day, admit that bus upkeep is an issue, and they have stepped up maintenance schedules.

In the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) rating system, points are awarded for problems. As in golf, a low score is better than a high one. Perfect would be a zero, and it goes up to 100. On that scale, a report that came out Monday gave Wake a 94.

For comparison, that's 40 points worse than average in eastern North Carolina.

“Wake County's score on the inspection this year is ... it's not exactly what we'd like to see,” said Derek Graham of the DPI.

Some buses had minor issues, such as low fluid levels. Some others were taken out of service with problems like faulty emergency exits.

The school system is taking its lumps, large and small, and viewing the inspection as a chance to improve.

“We've reorganized. We're addressing the issues on that list and, in fact, we're going to ask DPI for a re-inspection—probably within the next couple of months,” said Wake Schools spokesman Michael Evans.

Wake County was a leader in bus safety, but this year fared worse than Durham, Orange, Chatham, Johnston and Franklin counties. The explanation officials give is familiar to those concerned with the schools: growth.

Last year, officials say, 7,000 new students put a strain on the bus fleet.

“Our maintenance and operations people do a tremendous job of keeping the fleet rolling on a daily basis under these growth pressures. But on the other hand, we have to make sure that every bus is safe. That's our ultimate goal.”

The state and county say no students were in imminent danger from any of the violations.

The state inspects 10 percent of each school system's buses once a year.

In the latest round, Orange County scored 48, Johnston County Johnston 44 and Durham County schools were near the top with 16.


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  • NCTeacher Apr 9, 2007

    Not So Dumb, I am assuming that they get their DMV inspection yearly, but this is as extra inspection from the County with different requirements. That is just my impression.

  • Not_So_Dumb Apr 4, 2007

    "...because of maintenance issues, but the county says it is an opportunity to do better."

    So perhaps I should let a patient or two of mine die so that I might have the opportunity to do better???

  • Not_So_Dumb Apr 4, 2007

    It warms my heart to know that they are knowingly noncompliant and putting the lives of children at risk everyday!

    Don't get me wrong, I don't blame the workers charged with the job. I place full blame with the negligent WCPSS!

  • doc4215 Apr 4, 2007

    There are not enough maintenance and operations people do to do there job. There is a large number of buses assigned to one person (60 to 75 buses) I know I work there. The maintenance staff are doing the best they can with the staff that in available. Until Wake County School System complies with the standers set forth in the North Carolina
    School Transportation Fleet Manual the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) scores will not get any better. More staff is needed, money would be nice but not necessary.

  • Not_So_Dumb Apr 4, 2007

    So, only 10% of buses are inspected each year. Cars must be inspected yearly.
    And ~68,000 students ride these buses???
    What the F!
    Let's continue to bus kids all over and let's just increase the number of kids on these buses, unsafe buses.
    How flippin' irresponsible to put peoples' children on these things when they aren't even inspected yearly!!!

  • CherryDarling Apr 4, 2007

    Note how it says, "...unfamiliar territory for a system that often tops lists for education standards."

    So, because they have standards means that they are a great school district? What about follow through?

    It's absolutely ridiculous the way things are handled by Wake County schools.

    I have a friend who has 2 daughters - one in HS, the other in elementary. The school system decided to change her older daughter's school to a year round school, which meant she now had no one to watch her youngest daughter when they were out of school for vacations and summer.

    She appealed as far as she could go and NO ONE listened to a word she said...or they listened and did not hear... or, more likely, they heard and DID NOT CARE!

    Typical behavior of the Wake County school district...

  • regularguy_nc-at-yahoo.com Apr 3, 2007

    Oh yeah... remember "integration?" ...or, "desegragation?" Has it been so long people are forgetting where school buses came from? In my opinion, that was/is a good thing, BUT is there not a better way?

  • regularguy_nc-at-yahoo.com Apr 3, 2007

    I wish I had rode the bus in the mornings when in the 5th grade at Helena (NC-1967). Every morning the radio show –in the car-- would say "Lets go to the hills, North Hills shopping center" and I would have a psychosomatic reaction that would make me have to puke because of the MONSTER they had running my class! She was sort of a cross between Captain Blye and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Should have took the bus!!!

  • regularguy_nc-at-yahoo.com Apr 3, 2007

    If you give me $100,000,000 and defer any taxes for 50 years and give me the land and a discount on utilities, I'll start a school bus maintenance and construction factory in your county and create a bunch of jobs that pay above minimum wage.

  • Cameron Apr 3, 2007

    We would need fewer buses if we stopped the social engineering and allowed all children to attend neighborhood schools. Students on our street, less than a mile long, attend four different high schools, three different middle schools, and three different elementary schools. Talk about a waste of money!