KEOKUK, Iowa – Keokuk Community School District has received the first two buses with seat belts in the district.
The district and Keokuk School Board went the extra mile and chose to purchase the buses with the added integrated car seats, after a state law in Iowa was passed requiring lap/shoulder seat belts on any new buses purchased after Oct. 2, 2020,according to the Iowa Pupil Transportation Association (IPTA). The new buses were ordered in 2021, however due to manufacturing delays it took the district about 18 months to receive the buses.
The car seats are included in the first eight rows of the two new buses and enable the school buses to transport preschool and daycare age children safely. The younger and smaller children are not usually qualified to be transported by the district, but Dave Grogan, the KCSD Director of Transportation and Grounds, saw a need after the district started to transport children to and from daycare in 2020. The plan includes transportation for nine local daycares.
“We did it so that parents wouldn’t have to leave their job during the day to pick their kids up,” Grogan said. “We wish we could add more daycares, but we do not have the staff.”
Previously the district used the buses for students with disabilities and individually installed five-point harnesses when small children were transported, however the integrated system is faster and easier and adds transportation options to the fleet.
The district started the process of purchasing the new buses after a report was presented to the Keokuk School Board by the district’s Transportation and Grounds Department in February 2020, showing a need to ideally purchase one new bus a year for the next 15 years. The seat belts add an approximate additional $10,000 to the cost of each bus. The purchase price of each of the new buses is $140,000.
The new buses also feature extra storage for athletic trips and air-conditioning. The district now has four buses that include air-conditioning, which is a requirement to transport some students with disabilities and is an added benefit for children traveling long distances for athletic events, Grogan said.
The buses also feature white roofs and tinted windows to aid in temperature control. Grogan said the department hopes to order a second special education bus with air-conditioning.
Grogan noted that the district has a bus driver shortage. For anyone interested in becoming a bus driver, go to keokukschools.org/about-the-district/employment/.
Recently, the school district also purchased a used six to eight-passenger golf cart that also has seat belts to aid in transporting fans with mobility concerns to the stadium and around campus, as well as to transport items needed around the grounds. Grogan stated that the school board noted the need and Powdertown Golf in Keokuk offered an affordable deal on the cart. The previous cart was small and fit three passengers, but it is no longer functioning.
“We are trying to do something to help the patrons easily attend events,” Grogan said. “The cart is electric, which will allow patrons to be transported inside of a building as well if needed.
According to Grogan, school transportation is an expensive and necessary investment in the safety of the children and the patrons in the district.
For more information on the law requiring seat belts on buses, review the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Pupil Transportation Association document.