Bus Report Cards: How Does Your School Rate?

Posted at 6:33 PM, Mar 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-04 14:50:38-05

MUSKEGON, Mich. (Mar. 3, 2014) — State bus inspection reports are in for 2013, and many schools are seeing an increase in the number of “red-tagged” buses compared to school years past.

On the bus report cards, a red tag means that the bus will have to be pulled from service until it’s fixed. Inspections are done by the Michigan State Police and posted online.

In Muskegon, Superintendent Jon Felske said that only one bus was red-tagged during the inspection done in November, 12, 2013. That bus was fixed in a matter of minutes after a bolt was tightened on what’s called a Pittman arm, he said. That’s a metal part that sits under the hood that is attached to the steering mechanism.

Rusty McDonald showed us the bolt that was loose. “We had to tighten that up,” said McDonald. “It took us a matter of a minute.”

“The thing we were red tagged for was something we were able to fix that same day, Felske said. “So, the bus never missed picking up or delivering students.”

They also had three buses that were listed with yellow tags, meaning they had 90 days to fix the problem from the November 2013 inspection.

FOX 17  took a look at how local school districts were stacking up in the 2013 school year:

  • Muskegon Public Schools reported one red tag out of 37 buses.
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools had 10 out of 83 buses red-tagged.
  • Holland had five out of 50 buses red-tagged.
  • Kalamazoo had no red tags reported out of 127 buses.
  • Rockford had 13 out of 79 red-tagged buses.

Grand Haven was reported as having 30 out of 57 buses, one of the highest rates.

We took the numbers to the Rod Jonas, director of transportation for Grand Haven Area Public Schools. He said that the district had 26 buses red-tagged in the 2012 school year and 30 in the 2013 inspection. Jonas said that this wasn’t a typical occurrence for the district, but the numbers had jumped considerably with the introduction of new inspectors a few years ago. “Up until probably the last three years, we got new inspectors, and the way they interpret the rules and stuff have changed.”

He said with the changes, inspectors might red-tag a bus for having a light bulb out. He feels it’s something that didn’t necessarily happen in the past, and he added that inspectors would allow the district to fix problems on the spot without getting a red tag. “I think about four years ago, we got a certificate that every one of our buses passed,” said Jonas.

Jonas reassures parents that the buses are safe. “Just because there is a light out doesn’t mean the buses aren’t safe,” he said.

In addition, the two school districts we talked to in West Michigan noticed differences in the data that was reported by the MSP online report.

In the Muskegon district, Superintendent Jon Felske said that only one bus was actually red-tagged. However, the state’s online report showed that the school had seven buses out of 37 that had been shown to have a red tag.

Felske showed us the paperwork that showed that only one bus was tagged as a red-flag during the inspection process in November of 2013.

After further inspection of those reports, Muskegon Public Schools staff determined that the seven red tags were from the 2012 to 2013 school year, and so that their percentage of buses that were red-tagged actually improved.

The new numbers showing the improvement will be shown in a 2014 report that could be coming out within the next month.

No matter what the reports show, both Jonas and Felske say the buses are safe.

At both districts, school employees look over those buses daily with a checklist, pulling them out of service as needed. “Buses are the safest vehicle on the road,” said Jonas.

To see what the state has listed for your district in the 2013 school year, check out the link below: