The average age of the South-Western City School District's fleet of buses is well below the industry standard and will get even younger after the current school year ends.
Transportation Supervisor Tim Cox reviewed the 2012-13 transportation statistics for the district at the school board meeting Feb. 25.
The district has 186 buses with an average age of 8 years, he said. The average age of South-Western's 156 route buses is 7 years.
The industry standard is 15 years, Cox said.
In June, the district will be auctioning its 1997-model buses, he said.
Students ages 3-22 are transported by the district, including special education students up to the age of 22 even after they have graduated from high school, Cox said.
District buses transport students to 70 schools, including 13 out-of-district schools, nine parochial schools and 11 charter schools, he said.
Ninety percent of the district route buses have digital four-head cameras that act as a deterrent to inappropriate behavior, Cox said.
The cameras are particularly helpful when there are disputes between drivers and parents, he said.
Bus drivers undergo a monthly professional development program that covers various topics, including being trained in the proper process of checking each of the nine mirrors installed on each bus before pulling out; understanding where students should be standing at a bus stop and management of their buses.
"Managing your bus is a key to a successful bus driver," Cox said.
Drivers also undergo annual lessons on defensive driving and tips for driving in winter, he said.
About 13,400 students are transported by bus on an average school day and South-Western buses travel 13,819 miles on an average day, Cox said.
A GPS unit in the transportation office is able to continuously track the whereabouts of every school bus, he said.
"We have a kind of smart board which displays all 156 buses and where they are so if a parent calls and says the bus didn't show we can tell them" when exactly the bus arrived or will arrive at their child's stop, Cox said.
The buses displayed on the board have the corresponding bus numbers beside them "and they ping every 60 seconds," he said.
If a traffic jam occurs in the district, Cox said, he and his staff can determine which buses are caught up in the slow down and how they can go around the tie-up.