ESSD Buses Face Inspection Issues

Excelsior Citizen stock image of Apple Bus/First Student buses for ESSD in January 2023 (photo S Jason Cole)..

June 25, 2023 – The Excelsior Springs School District (ESSD) shared updated information about school bus safety after the release of an inspection report by the Missouri Highway Patrol (MHP) earlier this month. The report revealed that out of the district’s 35 buses, only 65.7% (23) were deemed fit for service, with 31.4% (11) of the buses marked as defective and 2.9% (1) bus out of service.

At the March 2023 Board of Education meeting, Excelsior Springs School District Communications Director Mark Bullimore announced to the community that the buses had passed inspections with “flying colors.” However, the recent inspection report suggested a significant disparity between those claims and the actual condition of the buses.

The initial report from the Missouri Highway Patrol raised some red flags.

Acting ESSD Superintendent Jaret Tomlinson acknowledged the inspection findings but highlighted some key issues with the evaluation process. “The way that the inspections are done, if there is any issue with the first pass by the inspectors, then they mark it as defective. But if the bus company can fix the issue on the spot in front of the inspector, then the bus will pass,” said Tomlinson. He cited examples such as misplaced emergency stickers on news buses that were promptly adjusted and one bus with tires that had low tread, which were replaced immediately upon inspection.

District Communications Director Mark Bullimore echoed Tomlinson’s remarks, clarifying that all buses had received passing grades before the MHP left the premises. Bullimore emphasized that the official report was based on initial findings and did not reflect the final standings. He admitted that the evaluation process was new to him in his role as Communications Director. Bullimore also noted that one bus remained out of service due to a parts shortage, while the other defects had been addressed on the same day.

Kim Green, the manager for Apple Bus/First Student, the bus company serving ESSD, supported Bullimore’s statements. Green confirmed that all defects, except one awaiting parts, were promptly rectified, and all but one bus were back in service.

A follow-up report from MHP shows the defects and indicates repairs were made within the statutory time period.

Moving forward, the Excelsior Springs School District said they intend to work closely with Apple Bus/First Student to ensure that all necessary repairs are completed promptly and that the fleet’s safety standards are upheld. Regular inspections and ongoing monitoring will continue to ensure the safety of students during transportation. 

Bullimore said he will be presenting information about the bus safety reports during his Operations Board Report at the July Board of Education meeting.  He also expressed optimism that proposed pay increases for First Student employees would help alleviate the turnover rate among drivers, mechanics, and office staff, contributing to better overall bus maintenance and safety moving forward.

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