The Canal Winchester Board of Education voted unanimously Aug. 18 to seek bids for four new school buses -- three conventional vehicles that seat 78 students and one handicap-accessible bus with a wheelchair lift that can hold up to 36 passengers.
The board's action occurred on the same day Canal Winchester schools opened for the 2014-15 school year with nearly one-third of its bus fleet sidelined by the Ohio State Highway Patrol because the vehicles failed inspection.
Superintendent Jim Sotlar told the board that district officials had met with the state patrol earlier that day to discuss a plan of action for getting the buses fixed and back in service.
Mike Bruning, the district's director of operations, told the board that all the buses that did not meet state standards were at least 14 years old.
"Issues cited during the inspection range from burned-out light bulbs to rust on the cross-member supports of the undercarriage," Sotlar said.
According to the superintendent, it could take up to eight weeks to get all the buses on the road again.
The final cost for the repairs has not yet been determined.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol took 15 of Canal Winchester's 48 school buses out of service Aug. 14 because they did not pass inspection.
According to a district news release, all buses are inspected before school starts each year and spot inspections are completed at least twice a year.
Annual inspections occurred this year on Aug. 5, 6 and 14.
Sotlar said that over the past two years, all district buses passed inspection.
The district had planned to look at replacing some buses this school year, but Sotlar said the cost of the repairs may be the deciding factor in whether some buses are fixed or replaced.
After the bids are received, the board will still have to decide if the time is right to purchase new buses.
"Student safety is a top priority and we will adhere to the standards set forth by the Ohio State Highway Patrol inspection team," Sotlar said.
Canal Winchester transports 2,100 students each day. The district will continue to use borrowed buses from South-Western City Schools and Westerville until the repairs to Canal Winchester's buses are completed.
Within the next couple of weeks, the district hopes to return those buses and use ones supplied by Columbus City Schools. Each borrowed bus has a Canal Winchester Schools sign in the window along with the appropriate bus number.
Sotlar said the district is still negotiating monetary reimbursements with the districts that made sure that Canal Winchester had enough buses to begin school on time.