School Districts Vary Tactics to Safeguard Buses

School districts throughout the tri-states have a variety of strategies for protecting their bus fleets.

There are locked indoor facilities, fences, lights, security cameras, police patrols and in some cases, nothing at all.

"We don't do a whole lot; they sit in the high school parking lot," said Tim Roth, transportation director for Bellevue (Iowa) Community School District.

Those who do use security tactics hope to prevent acts of vandalism like the slicing of 29 brake lines on Dubuque Community School District buses that canceled classes on Wednesday. This occurred despite the fact that Dubuque keeps its buses inside a locked, chain-link fence area near Dubuque Senior High School.

West Delaware County (Iowa) Community School District stores buses in an outdoor fenced lot with a few cameras. Maquoketa (Iowa) Valley has an outdoor lot tucked in a residential area along with regular police patrols. Central Community in Clayton County, Iowa, has two indoor buildings.

In the Western Dubuque County (Iowa) Community School District, buses are only stored together during the summer for maintenance purposes. During the school year, they are kept at drivers' homes.

This keeps drivers close to their routes in the large district. It also protects against vandalism.

The summer facility is equipped with fences, locks, and cameras.

The Galena (Ill.) School District contracts its buses through Hillard Bros. Student Transportation in Galena. Owner Rick Hillard said the business is fortunate because it has enough space in locked buildings to house the 10 buses.

Three southwest Wisconsin school districts employ the famous Greyhound Bus "Leave the driving to us" jingle for their transportation needs. Cuba City, Platteville and Southwestern all contract for bus service.

The Lancaster School District is an exception, operating a 14-bus system. It has its own maintenance garage and shop at the high school. The parking site is not enclosed by a fence, but it is well lit.

District transportation director Curt Mergen pointed out that Lancaster police monitor the parking area well.

Greg Faherty, of Faherty Inc., of Platteville, reports his business employs an effective surveillance system.

"We've never had any problem with vandalism," Faherty said.

Platteville School District Administrator Dean Isaacson said Faherty works "hand-in-hand" with the district.

Ditto Cuba City schools to the south, which contracts with Russ Stratton Buses Inc. Like Faherty, Tom Stratton, Stratton's transportation manager, notes his company has never had a serious problem with vandalism.

The Southwestern School District contracts its school bus service with River Trails Transit, a division of the Galena, Ill-based Tri-State Travels.

Southwestern Schools Superintendent Jim Egan said the district has been contracting out for at least 20 years and the agreement has worked out well.