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No school board money used for new school bus lounge area

Halifax County Public Schools Transportation has a new addition to its bus shop this school year.

DISH Network Satellite television.

According to Transportation Coordinator Earl Womack, the decision was made to purchase Dish Network so drivers would have something to do instead of sitting in the bus garage, which is a safety and insurance liability.

“Drivers have to come in every 45 days for inspection,” said Womack explaining why bus drivers would be in the bus shop.

The transportation department purchased the very basic package that includes weather, local and news channels, he added.

In addition to the “lounge” area for drivers that includes a small kitchen table, television and microwave, a new flat screen television was installed in Womack’s office.

Womack and Shop Foreman Keith McDowell installed the flat screen themselves one morning in June before either of them clocked in for the day.

The cost of everything, including the new flat screen television, was around $700 and was paid for with money from recycled bin parts raised by the department, said Womack.

Transportation plans to pick up the $30 monthly fee for satellite service using money left over from the recycled bin parts fund.

“We didn’t want to ask the board to utilize any money…there was no school board money used,” said Womack.

Instead, Womack said they did what they believed was the most logical thing because “we still have to ensure that we have proper equipment for our employees here.”

Prior to purchasing the new flat screen, transportation made sure no viable televisions were available to be reused on site.

“They were all analog, and we couldn’t use them,” added Womack.

The flat screen has been used already this year to view bus videos. The coordinator said it’s much easier to observe the video from the screen than “scrunched” over a computer screen. Also it will be used for training and monitoring weather situations.

“Drivers can view it easier. They can sit back and observe,” he added.

Almost all of the buses on the road currently have digital cameras on board, and analog televisions wouldn’t play the videos. 

“There are maybe 10 buses that don’t have digital cameras,” said Womack.

Starting this year a few new rules have been put in place with a new foreman taking charge in the bus garage.

Womack told drivers at the annual bus meeting that starting this year no drivers will be allowed in the shop, according to McDowell.

“It’s a safety issue, and it takes the mechanics away from their job,” explained Womack.

Also he has asked all drivers to fill out proper paperwork before reporting anything to a mechanic.