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SKSD would like to ‘standardize’ bus fleet

South Kitsap School District transportation director Jay Rosapepe has goals, but reaching them might prove to be his biggest challenge.

Rosapepe said he would like to “standardize” the district’s bus fleet with the 77-seat Type C category buses, which were introduced by Thomas Built Buses in 2004 and feature a curved hood comparable with those seen on semi-trailers in addition to raised and tinted windows.

“For training, that’s the way to go,” Rosapepe said.

Those buses first were added to SKSD’s bus fleet in 2009 when former transportation director Scott Logan purchased five of them. At the time, he said the hood design enhances visibility for drivers, particularly with small children crossing the street. Elementary-school students are not allowed to lower their windows completely because of safety issues, such as a child falling out of one. Logan said at the time that tinted windows were added at a cost of about $600 per bus to provide more climate control. He said the temperature inside a bus is about 110 degrees when it is 90 outside, and that the tinted windows lower the temperature about 6 to 8 degrees.

According to Rosapepe, the new Thomas’ comprise 16 percent of the district’s large-bus fleet. That number will increase when two more are purchased this summer, but he said it won’t be enough. Rosapepe said the SKSD has 14 of 57 larger buses that are older than the depreciation schedule table and that number will increase by nine next year. That means the district does not receive state subsidies for those vehicles. The state pays for depreciation on larger buses newer than 13 years old and smaller ones 8 years old or less.

The depreciation payments are supposed to allow SKSD to replace buses on schedule. But Rosapepe said there are a couple of issues with that. He said the state assesses cost for new buses over a five-year span. Rosapepe said that means the state only covers about $95,000 for a new bus that costs $115,000. Also, he said failed levies in 1997 and 2000 put the district behind on the replacement schedule.

SKSD officials tried to resolve some of those issues several years ago by taking out loan payments the district still is paying for. That has resulted in loan payments on interest payments of $219,537 since 2007 and will continue to make those through the 2012-13 school year before it drops to $134,144 the following year to finish the loan.

Rosapepe said he is not sure how the bus-replacement issue will be resolved.

 

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