The Montana Office of Public Instruction is implementing new standards for school buses and the people who drive them.
The standards cover everything from the safety features a bus should include to where bus stops should be.
Helena School District Superintendent Jack Copps said he’s pleased with the changes he’s seen.
“A committee of good people come together to review these regulations, and they make what I consider to be reasonable changes, to make sure that our kids are as safe as they can possibly be, make sure the buses are the best they possibly can be,” he said.
One major change will be increased training requirements for bus drivers, who will now be required to get 15 hours of continuing education each year, instead of 10.
Copps said he doesn’t believe the new requirements will make it harder for the Helena School District to maintain enough drivers. He said most of the drivers provided by the district’s contractor, First Student, will already meet the new standards.
Last year, district leaders reported having to consolidate some of their bus routes because First Studentwasn’t able to provide enough drivers. Copps said the company has addressed that shortage this year.
First Student leaders say they have found it harder to recruit nationwide, partly because of low unemployment that meant more jobs were available for potential candidates.
Copps said the district and First Student will have to make some changes to meet the new standards, but he thinks it’s worth the effort.
“I hear a lot of criticism about standards and how detailed they get,” he said. “In this particular case, these are very responsible standards, and I’m very pleased that we have them and I’m pleased that we review them on a regular basis.”
The latest standards will apply to all school buses manufactured from this year on.