Trigg County Board of Education approved two new Thomas school buses for the 2020-2021 school year at its meeting Thursday night.

Trigg County Public Schools will get a 66-passenger bus and a special-needs school bus along with analog/digital radios for each at a total of $209,000.

The school board budgeted $225,000 for the purchase of new buses and unanimously approved the less expensive purchase on first reading. Charlene Sheehan made the motion for the approval and Clara Hyde second.

Erin Eagleson, director of transportation at the Trigg County bus garage, showed a comparison of school bus prices for Thomas, International and Bluebird manufacturers.

The 66-passenger Thomas bus came out less expensive at $104,066, when compared to the others --- International at $104,437 and Bluebird at 104,810. The Thomas special-needs bus fell in the middle at $104,725, while International was $103,463 and Bluebird was $109,085.

Eagleson said he and his garage foreman/lead technician, Greg Brown, prefer the Thomas brand of school buses because the company's customer service is responsive and has a traveling mechanic if anything were to need additional work that his team of mechanics couldn't do.

"They will come to you," he said. "That's better than taking the bus to them and it sitting on a lot somewhere."

Eagleson recommended the remaining $15,000 in the school-bus budget be used to purchase extended 10-year warranties on last year's Thomas buses, which will cost approximately $11,300.

Board member Gayle Rufli asked if there are buses with seatbelts and how much it would cost to add them.

"I would like to know what's the charge if we order the bus with the seatbelts vs. adding them later," she said.

Eagleson said he would get the numbers on it, but knew it would probably require all the buses to be upgraded with seatbelts at a hefty price. Special-needs buses already have harnesses.

"Twenty-five harnesses for (the) preschool (bus) this summer was over $3,000," he said.

School board attorney Jack Lackey said the research about seatbelts on school buses is conflicting.

"There's a little bit of disagreement in the research in what's safer and what's not," Lackey said. "You can find studies going both ways. It's not settled, but I think the trend is going toward putting them on."

Eagleson agreed, saying the seatbelt requirement on school buses is probably coming.

"It's not if but when," he said. "It's probably gonna be one of those unfunded mandates."

In other school board news:

- Eagleson reported that the bus routes are fully staffed.

- The board had three students, one boy and two girls, apply and qualify for the Kentucky School Boards Association's First Degree College Scholarship. The board drew names, and Lindsey Malone and Elijah Gaines will be submitted to the state scholarship pool. Another drawing will happen on the state level for one boy and one girl to win the $2,500 scholarships.

- Matt Ladd, director of operations, gave an update on the construction at the schools. "We focused on the security vestibule in the high school while the students were on fall break this week, and it's really coming along," he said. Excavation work at the primary school has started and the playground equipment has been removed. A&K Construction is the contractor.

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

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