BLUE EARTH - Three new buses being used by Blue Earth Area Schools have lots of extra safety features, but seat belts aren't one of them - and that suits Dan Brod, transportation director, just fine.
"I would not ever like to see seat belts," Brod told the school board recently. "When you have kindergarten through 12th grade, you never know what the seat belt will be used for."
One safety measure the buses do have is seats that are 4 inches taller to protect kids better. However, they also make it more difficult to see when kids are hiding or sleeping on the seats. To prevent children from being left behind on a bus, an alarm will sound and the bus driver must walk to the back of the bus to shut it off manually, looking for kids along the way.
CATCHING?A?RIDE — Blue Earth Area officials including, from left, Superintendent Evan Gough, K-8 Principal Melissa McGuire and school board members Shane Becker, Jesse Haugh and Vickie Hanson check out safety features of three new school buses, including seats that are 4 inches higher.
In addition to the gadgets, Brod said the drivers have been going over bus safety with students.
"Getting off and on is the most dangerous thing that goes on with the bus," said Brod, noting that is when kids are most likely to get under or behind the bus, when the driver cannot see them.
Another item making life a little easier for drivers is an upgrade from analog radios. Now, custodians and drivers are on different channels, making communications go more smoothly.
The district could transport 1,700 riders per day, but "much of the high school does not ride," Brod said.
The five-community Blue Earth Area school district covers a lot of territory and the drivers travel a total of more than a thousand miles per day, with a dozen routes in the morning and 13 in the afternoon.