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Local

Kaneland School District 302 Board contemplates plans for aging bus fleet

Transportation director updates district bus plan at Nov. 25 meeting

Kaneland John Shields Elementary School in Sugar Grove
Kaneland John Shields Elementary School in Sugar Grove

SUGAR GROVE – The large size of the Kaneland School District 302 and location of its buildings from Montgomery to Maple Park continue to challenge the buses as well as the district board as it makes decisions on how to best maintain its fleet.

Karen Smith, District 302 director of transportation, shared her report on the status of buses in a transportation plan during the board meeting Nov. 25.

“Remember how big our district is and the wear and tear on tires,” Smith said. “We’re replacing tires because of the miles we put on. And there’s the body of the bus. That’s a lot to consider with the repairs and maintenance, too. And if we’re not able to do something [repairwise] in-house, then we have to send it off.”

Board members Ryan Kerry and Teresa Witt wondered aloud why it seems as if the district is continuing to purchase buses but its repair costs aren’t going down any. Shouldn’t one offset the other at some point, they questioned.

The buses Kaneland is trading in are older, Associate Superintendent Julie-Ann Fuchs said.

“You are trading in possibly 11- or 12-year-old buses,” Fuchs said. “It’s not like trading in 6-, 7- or 8-year-old buses. Until you get to that point where you’re rotating more frequently, if that’s what you want to do, you’re going to probably continue to have repair costs on those aging buses.”

Fuchs warned the board that it should consider being proactive with bus purchases so that the district doesn’t land in a position where it needs to replace 10 or more at one time.

Smith’s plan recommends the disposal of five buses in 2020. The estimated costs to repair these buses is from $6,000 to $8,000 each.

“We have an additional
12 [buses] that [our mechanic] is keeping an eye on,” Smith said. [One particular bus, No. 24,] comes into the shop almost weekly. We’re putting a lot of money into that bus to keep it on the road.”

With winter approaching, District 302 anticipates challenges with its current fleet.

“Even though we plug the buses in during the winter every night, and keep the heaters on, some of them are still pretty rough to get started,” Smith said. “When you’ve got [temperatures of] 20 below and are trying to start a bus, it’s a little rough.”

The board did not disclose what it would like included in the first draft of the financial projection model regarding transportation, but Fuchs is set to present the financial projection info at the Dec. 9 meeting. At that time, the board will be able to continue discussions and adjust any amounts they would like to change.

The original administrative recommendation is that the board continues to plan to update the bus fleet and set aside up to $400,000 each year for all projected years.

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