Improved school bus safety features

Improved school bus safety features

By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor

OAKLAND COUNTY — With the new school year here and in full swing, Oakland Schools has taken proactive measures to ensure that the nearly 100,000 students throughout Oakland County have safe and secure transportation to and from school.
More than 1,800 Oakland County school buses, including Clarkston Community Schools, have returned to the road with the 2023-24 academic year.
“Oakland Schools is dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of transportation safety and operational excellence,” said Oakland Schools Transportation Supervisor Thomas Korth. “By adhering to industry-leading safety standards, investing in continuous training, and collaborating with local authorities, we are taking every step necessary to provide a secure and reliable transportation experience for students and their families.”
Every school bus in Oakland County has state-of-the-art safety features designed to protect students during their commute.
These safety features, also a part of all Clarkston buses, that are in addition to cameras at CCS, include:
Compartmentalization: School buses are designed with high, padded seat backs to create protective compartments in the event of a collision.
This unique design absorbs and distributes impact forces, significantly reducing the risk of injury. As a result, seat belts are not mandated on school buses, as the compartmentalization system provides a safe environment without compromising students’ well-being.
Annual Inspections: Each school bus undergoes a rigorous annual inspection by the Michigan State Police to ensure that all safety features are fully functional. The inspection evaluates mechanical components, safety systems, and emergency exits, ensuring that buses are in optimal condition to transport students safely.
After thorough inspections, buses are assigned a color code by MSP based on their condition and compliance with safety standards. The color-coding system visually indicates safety status for each bus – green indicates that the bus is safe for student transport, yellow indicates that a repair must be made before transport, and red indicates that the bus is unsafe for student transport.
Critical Incident and Evacuation Training: Oakland Schools has also announced the implementation of critical incident and evacuation training to enhance the preparedness of both drivers and students. This comprehensive training equips drivers with the necessary skills and knowledge to handle emergencies, ensuring that students remain safe and cared for during unforeseen events.
In Clarkston, bus routes have been revised for the new school year as the district has separated the secondary routes. Sashabaw Middle School students will have their own buses, while students from Clarkston High School, Clarkston Junior High, and Renaissance High School will ride together.
According to a newsletter from CCS, “this change minimizes the need for shuttle buses between facilities and will not only eliminate the end-of-day shuttle confusion and allow our buses to arrive at the elementary schools earlier.”
The changes have caused a few hiccups early on in the school year in Clarkston, but nothing that Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan said won’t be rectified in short order.
“Despite everything going well this year, I want to acknowledge the challenges we have faced with transportation,” said Ryan in a Sept. 22 communication. “At the start of every year, we ask for your grace and understanding as we tighten up routes and schedules. However, this year has been different. Responding to our parents’ requests, we decided it was best to separate the middle school students from the junior high and high school students. Our buses have transported sixth through 12th grade students on the same bus for several years. But that is not the case anymore.
“Our transportation department has worked diligently to make this change possible, but unfortunately, change doesn’t come without obstacles.
“Separating the middle school students, paired with a significant increase in ridership this year, has made it difficult for the transportation team to lock in routes and schedules for all grade levels. We have added dozens of routes for these two reasons, and our staff is continuing to make the necessary changes to ensure your child is getting to and from school safely and on time.”
Because of the increase in routes, Ryan said there is a need for more bus drivers across the district.
“We are currently fully staffed for our routes,” said Ryan. “However, we need a few more drivers to give us the wiggle room necessary to ensure seamless coverage when a driver is ill or out of town. If you know someone interested in joining the CCS transportation team, please tell them the time is now. While all of this has taken longer than any of us wanted, we believe the dust is beginning to settle. We are confident that the majority of our routes are solidified. We are close to a full resolution, with a few more adjustments starting (last) week.
“Regardless of the obstacles, I know this school year will be filled with incredible opportunities, achievements, and milestones for your children. I know this because, in Clarkston, our families and staff always rally around our students to ensure they are safe, happy, and learning.”

PHOTO: Clarkston Community Schools has implemented new bus safety measures for the current 2023-24 school year. Photo: Wendi Reardon Price

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