By MARC VALERO
SEBRING — Some School Board of Highlands County students will be having a new ride next week with eight new school buses checked and ready to roll on routes in Avon Park, Sebring and Lake Placid.
The district ordered nine new International diesel 77-passenger buses with eight of them having been delivered and then inspected and prepped by the district’s mechanics.
It’s the third year in a row for new buses since the district started receiving revenue from the half-cent sales. Prior to the school sales tax, the district had about seven years with no new buses due to lean budget years.
Transportation Director Willie Hills said the district has 54 buses with more than 200,000 miles so the the new buses will be replacing some of those high-mileage buses.
“Once the buses come in from the Haines City compound, where they do the letter and numbering, we do a full inspection on the bus,” he said. “As per State Statutes, we make sure everything is in compliance; we double check all the cameras. For example, on a couple of the buses we weren’t pleased where the cameras were sitting so we made some adjustments to the cameras.”
Then, when the radios are installed the buses are ready to go on the road, Hills said.
Highlands News-Sun asked how many buses in the fleet still don’t have air conditioning?
The district still has five buses without air conditioning, Hills replied. One of the new buses may replace one of those five.
About 86 buses are in operation daily by the district with a total of 145, he said.
The district had expected an earlier delivery of the new buses, but the manufacturer ran into an issue with some of the air conditioners, which were recalled.
With one more bus on the way, the total cost for the nine buses is $995,411.