SYRACUSE — They could be described as rolling billboards for Wawasee Community Schools. Two new buses for the school corporation’s fleet are already attracting attention and will see plenty of use during the coming school year.
Using additional funds in the bus replacement fund, Wawasee purchased two 46-passenger activity buses from Kerlin Bus Sales in Silver Lake. The buses are Thomas transit type buses and differ from traditional yellow school buses in not only the number of seats, but also the body style and configuration.
“The driver sits behind the front axle and you turn and drive it differently (than a typical school bus),” said Mike Snavley, director of transportation for the school corporation. There is no hood in front of the driver and the engine is in back of the bus. “It’s more like a big RV,” he added.
More noticeable to the public, though, will be the colorful paint scheme of the buses. They are white and accentuated with the green and gold colors of the school corporation and “Wawasee Community Schools.” One bus is highlighted in green, the other in gold.
Both buses will be used heavily for field trips and sporting events. Snavley estimated there are about 1,000 such trips made throughout the school year. “These buses will be the first ones out every day for field trips and sports teams,” he said.
He noted the school corporation had been looking to buy 46-passenger buses for several years (a standard yellow bus is for 78 passengers), but finally the timing was right to do so. Routes were consolidated and three routes eliminated due to a shortage of drivers, which many school corporations deal with.
Overall the bus fleet was downsized by selling at auction three 12 year old buses. The school corporation is on a 12 year program to replace buses, so the three sold would have been among the oldest ones in the fleet.
What also sets the two new buses apart is the technology available on board. There are flip down DVD screens, USB ports, Wi-Fi and students will be able to use their 1:1 electronic devices. “It can be kind of a rolling classroom,” Snavley said, and teachers could use the video screens for instructional time in some situations.
Bucket, instead of bench type seats, and air conditioning also are a difference with the new buses. The high school volleyball team was the first group to use one of the buses Wednesday, Aug. 9.
Snavley noted this is an era when school corporations are advertising and trying to recruit new students. He believes the new buses can help promote the school corporation. “I believe these will be a nice addition for Wawasee schools,” he said.