More than 30,000 students attend Hall County and Gainesville schools. Many are transported by those systems to and from campus while school is in session.
But over the summer and beyond, those buses that transport the thousands of children undergo a rigorous inspection from both the local system and the state.
Each year the Georgia Department of Public Safety does an inspection of all the school system’s buses.
“They check out everything from A to Z almost,” said Jewel Armour, executive director of operations for Hall County Schools. “They told us this year we’ve had the best inspection we’ve had in years.”
All 300 of the county’s buses were inspected about a week after school let out for the summer.
The early inspection, Armour said, gives the bus shop time to fix any issues the state department may see.
“We want to get it done as early in the summer as possible so we can get everything fixed by the time school starts,” he said.
Most of the issues the department saw this year were minor, including lights and minor upholstery concerns.
Gainesville City Schools’ inspection is in the fall. Last year, public safety came in October to inspect the 53 buses the system uses.
About half had “minor defects,” similar to those Hall County had.
But the inspection is just added on to what the system is already required to do.
Every 20 days, each school bus must be inspected in-house. The state inspections are just a little more rigorous.
“It’s critical,” said Jerry Castleberry, director of transportation for Gainesville City Schools. “Anytime you have a second set of eyes and the technicians are maybe a little more critical than we may be on a monthly inspection. We really count on that.”
And most issues the state finds can be fixed on the spot.
“If we can replace it on the spot, we do,” said Armour. “If not, if it’s something that’s going to take more time, we’ll pull the bus off and red tag it and, of course, no one can drive it until it’s fixed.”
State inspections are scheduled once a year, but the department can show up unannounced anytime.
“We don’t go out and do a pre-inspection anticipating their arrival,” said Castleberry. “We want to feel pretty confident that they can come anytime they want and we’ll be ready.”
And the bus shops, officials said, “err on the side of caution” when looking at school buses.
“There’s all kinds of parts that can go bad on a bus,” said Armour. “It’s not an everyday occurrence, but at the same time we err on the side of caution. If we think it needs to be replaced, we do that.”