SCCPSS buses ready to roll? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

SCCPSS buses ready to roll?

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

As one school year wraps up, a lot of attention will be focused on Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools come this summer.

We've seen two different bus companies in the last two years - as First Student was replaced after several years with MV Reliant, who ended their contract in February. 

Now, the system takes the operation in-house, but will they be ready to roll in just a few months?

"We are going to make sure our children are transported in safe buses; that they are operating according to the standards we set for our buses," Tammy Perkins, Executive Director of Transportation, SCCPSS.

It's a massive undertaking, from the fleet to drivers, to the bus routes. Most parents are aware of the problems that led up to the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools taking over and running its own transportation system.

“Not so much nervous, it's just a real drastic change,” said Robin Campfield, mother.

“I just don’t like the idea they don’t have any seatbelts,” said Heather Eherenman, mother.

“I took my kids off the school bus,” said Karen Monahan, mother. 

Tammy Perkins has been put in charge of it all. From Laidlaw to First Student and finally MV Reliant. The Savannah-Chatham Public Schools executive director of transportation says the primary focus since February has been getting their own bus system up and running and ready.

“It is an enormous task,” said Perkins. “Transporting almost 25,000 students each day, you tend to take some ownership in that.”

Ownership she says past bus companies may have lacked. The school district will inherit a fleet of buses, with a $7 dollar vehicle and repair budget and six new buses coming in the next school year.

With 300 to 400 buses in their fleet - 43 new buses already this year - and it's up to MV Reliant to maintain the fleet and upkeep until they turn everything over to the school system.

So the district has a fleet – which may need more repairs and a new million dollar routing system – officials say that already puts them ahead of previous companies.

“We want to be very thorough about how we route the kids this year,” said Renee Anderson, router.

Anderson worked for MV reliant and First Student, and is one of three routers who are working through all 39,000 students coding, designating and reworking routes since February. She says the transition to in-house, from her experience is much smoother than bus company to bus company.

“All done in house,” said Anderson.

Communication is all under one house too. And if a student is lost, they can find him or her through this coding system. Some will walk, some will drive or get a ride, but most students will take the bus.

“We can look up the address and take the mouse and put the kid right where they live,” said Anderson. “Savannah-Chatham will be ready to roll? Yes sir, yes sir.”

But will the bus drivers be ready?

Hiring and job fairs have been underway since March, and while some are hired, many more drivers are need as expected. The fear the parents I spoke to had: Won't the same drivers be hired from reliant to the schools?

Perkins calls it a whole new ball game, and these bus drivers will now be school system employees with higher expectations.

“The school system has high standards for its bus drivers,” said Perkins. “We want to make sure they have every tool available to make them effective employees.”

Three months to go, Perkins believes the transition is going better than expected.

“We will be ready to roll come August,” said Perkins.

“Hopefully they should be. They need to push forward fast,” said Campfield.

Parents, are going to wait and see. Some may even put their children back on the yellow school bus.

“Possibly, we'd consider it.”

The jury is still out.

“If it doesn't fit into how much kids get to school, I will take them.”

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