ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KSDK) - The results of this year's school bus inspections are in, and it shows the Rockwood School District fared poorly.
Each year, the Missouri State Highway Patrol inspects the bus fleet for each school district in the "Show Me State." KSDK-TV filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the results. MSHP released the data Monday morning.
The Rockwood School District says the inspection happened over three days in February.
According to the data, only 21 percent of Rockwood's buses passed without any issues. By far that's the lowest approval percentage when comparing districts with at least 100 buses in its fleet. St. Louis Public Schools had the second lowest approval percentage in that category, 69 percent.
Here's the statement from St. Louis Public Schools:
The Safety of our students is of the highest priority for Saint Louis Public Schools. The District's contract with First Student specifies that every bus must pass a safety inspection every day before transporting our students.
While the results of the Highway Patrol annual inspection indicate some of the First Student busses did not receive a passing grade on the first time thru inspection, all out of service buses were fixed before any students were transported. The District has been assured by First Student that the busses used for transporting SLPS students are inspected daily by the drivers and that all students transported are done so in safe vehicles as required by our contractual agreement.
The Rockwood School District uses First Student for it bus operations. Rockwood's Transportation Director, Bill Sloan, said the district met with First Student about the issues. He says some major changes have taken place, including: mechanics being fired, more than 60 new buses added to the fleet and the crew receiving more training.
Here's the statement from First Student:
The safety of the students we transport is our top priority at First Student. We acknowledge that the recent Missouri Highway Patrol inspection results do not meet our high standards, and we apologize for the concerns this has caused to parents and our school district partners. As an important part of the inspection process, any identified issues were addressed immediately following the inspection, and no bus was placed in service that could not meet Missouri Highway Patrol standards on the same day. In addition to resolving the immediate maintenance concerns, we retrained employees in key inspection and communication processes to mitigate these issues in the future. Ongoing enrichments to this training will occur throughout the next school year and beyond. We continue to work closely with the school districts we serve to ensure that our equipment and our service represent our commitment to safety, and we would like to thank them for their partnership.
More than 40 school districts had 90 percent or more of their buses pass the inspections.
At Mehlville School District, state inspectors didn't find any maintenance issues with any of their buses.
This is the second year in a row that the district has received a 100 percent.
We wanted to know what are they doing differently than Rockwood.
Constant attention to detail is what the transportation director at Mehlville Fistrict says keeps their kids safe.
Dan Gilman says every day -- even in the summer months -- his mechanics check buses.
"Brakes, we are looking for hoses that are rubbing through we are looking for anything that will cause that bus to be unsafe," Gilman said.
He says his mechanics, who are also licensed state inspectors, look at three to four buses everyday.
"Here are the actual inspection sheets that we get from the state and as you can see they are empty, that's a good thing," Gilman said.
He also the good report card to new buses. This year he's hoping for four new ones.
Fort Zumwalt's superintendent agrees that having a young fleet is beneficial, he's asking for 30 new buses this year.
Dr. Bernard DuBray says what also helps is loyal mechanics.
"They are very possessive to these buses and they really take some personal pride in how well the buses are maintained," Dr. DuBray said.
Out of Fort Zumwalt's 168 buses, only five of them had minor issues.
"A lot of times it comes down to money and how much money you are willing to put into the fleet," DuBray said.
Gilman says the school bus safety industry needs to stick together.
"There's no sense of getting down on them or anything it's already done, the only thing we can do is strive to be better," Gilman said.
Gilman says Mehlville district can help struggling districts by at least being an example to strive for.
Both districts say having their own control of their fleet does help with inspection scores.
How did your school fare? See the documents below:
About the data:
-Approved: buses considered to have no issues.
-Defective: a bus with an issue that is considered minor. The bus can still transport children but must have issue fixed in 10 days.
-Out of Service: a bus that has a problem considered a safety issue. The bus is removed from service and cannot transport children until fixed and reinspected.