Woodward, Okla. —
Editor's note: In our fourth article highlighting the purpose of the $29 million bond to be decided Oct. 8 by Woodward School District patrons, we uncover the reality of what it takes to keep a fleet of buses operational, often for years without new buses.
The transportation portion of the bond, $1.8 million, will appear on its own on the ballot, separated from the main body of the bond proposal because state statutes require that it be presented to the public this way, according to Woodward Superintendent Tim Merchant.
During the first week of September, a group of adults who accompanied Woodward softball players to a game were heading back to Woodward from Clinton in an activity bus.
But before they could leave, the drive told all the riders on the bus to dismount the bus and stand aside while the adults pushed the bus out of a parking location at Clinton because the reverse in the vehicle had stopped working, said Woodward Deputy Superintendent Kyle Reynolds.
That's not too bad, said 25 year veteran mechanic and Head Mechanic for Woodward Schools, Richard Craddock.
"I work on these buses all the time," Craddock said. "If they go out and they actually get back here, they go straight to the shop for more work."
Such is the life of a head mechanic for a school district with 19 route buses, 15 of which are 1994 models or older.
In all, Woodward School District owns 5 activity or Boomer buses, 19 route buses, 4 SUV's and 2 cars, according to Woodward School District Transportation Director, Rosetta Loomis,
"I asked Richard what he would do with his time if we got all new Boomer buses," Loomis said. "He said he could finally get to working on some of the route buses for a change."
Included as one of the priorities, the transportation arm of the proposed bond would provide a five year plan to replace one activity bus, two to three route buses per year and one to three smaller vehicles, Reynolds said.
"We have four excursions right now that have over 200,000 miles on them," he said.
At present, all five activity buses are 1994 models, Loomis said.
When they originally purchased those in 2004, they were limited by state statute to purchasing something at least 10 years old or older, Reynolds said.
"We were happy to have them," Loomis said. "When we got them, they were guaranteed to have less than one million miles on them."
Now though, those Boomer buses are pushing 20 and feeling the strain of a million more miles traveling to too many to count sports and other events with the school, Loomis said.