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Buses ready to roll with route numbers
route card 1
School buses will be rolling next Wednesday for the first day of the 2016-17 school year. But instead of paying attention to the bus number just below the windows, Transportation Coordinator Brett Martin is urging parents and students to pay attention to the route number on the placard, in this case, number 46. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Open houses
Open houses for the middle and high schools in Effingham County will be held Monday from 4-7 p.m. Open houses for the elementary schools will be held Tuesday from 4-7 p.m.

With the Effingham County School System’s fleet of buses ready to roll for the Aug. 4 start of the school year, parents are being asked to pay close attention to the number on the side of the bus.

Transportation Coordinator Brett Martin has implemented a route number system, so the actual bus number is no longer as important. What is important is the number on the white placard on the side of the bus, signifying the route number.

More than 8,000 of the 11,000-plus students in the school system ride buses to school every day. The longest route is about an hour and a half, from the northern reaches of the county. Some buses in the south end carry more students but run more than one route.

The school system installing air conditioning on more than half of the buses — 58 of the 110 buses have had air conditioning put in over the summer — led to shuffling which buses ran which routes.

“We had to start moving buses around,” Martin said. “We looked at the time students were on buses.”

Air conditioning was put on the buses that have the longest routes. Buses older than 2009 models will not get air conditioning.

With the route numbering system, if a bus breaks down or has to be removed from service for maintenance, parents and students only need to know what route number and not what bus number will be coming.

“The drivers will follow the route cards,” Martin said. “We want parents to focus on that route number.”

Bus shop mechanics will use the black numbers on the bus when that vehicle comes in for repairs or inspection.

If a new bus enters the fleet, the route card will be transferred from an older bus to the new one. New buses also will be equipped with air conditioning. The current buses had Thermo King install the air conditioning units, and Martin wants to stick with that firm, so that there is similarity in all the units.

“Eventually, we’ll get there,” Martin said. “But it will take a while.”

Martin said the transportation department also will try to provide buses that are going out of town for field trips and for games. They also will try to use buses that are still under warranty.