WESTBROOK — Six school buses with overdue inspection stickers that were pulled from their routes Tuesday were sent to an auto shop for certification, although the school district’s former bus mechanic thinks it’s unlikely they’ll pass.
State police contacted the school department June 5 after receiving calls from residents about expired inspection stickers, according to Superintendent Peter Lancia. Those buses were not used Tuesday, he said, and the district borrowed buses from other districts to transport students.
“If there’s a safety concern the buses don’t go out on the road,” he said.
The six buses were inspected in August 2016, Lancia said. School bus inspection stickers are valid for six months and it is the responsibility of the transportation department to have them inspected.
“Unfortunately it was an oversight and there was some misunderstanding regarding dates of when the buses were due,” he said.
But Tom Goughnour, the former school bus mechanic for the district for 32 years, said many of the buses can’t pass inspection, and that there is more to the situation.
Lancia disputed this.
“Some of the buses are newer so I wouldn’t anticipate they won’t pass,” Lancia said.
Goughnour retired last August and a new bus mechanic has not been hired, leaving the district with no mechanic at all. Lancia said the district received no applications for the job, but that the posting is still active.
Lancia said school bus drivers do basic inspections of their buses every morning, but aren’t qualified to do mechanical inspections. Goughnour said he had to do some sort of mechanical work on buses most days and that buses need to be checked regularly.
“It’s awful,” Goughnour said. “You have to inspect buses.”
Goughnour said the drivers of the past-due buses were aware of the expired inspections, but were told not to worry about it by officials in the school’s transportation department.
Lancia said he had no knowledge of an official telling bus drivers this, but said this will be investigated.
“There’s always an investigation when a situation like this occurs,” he said.
Lancia said the district invited the state police to inspect all the buses on Wednesday.
Multiple concerned parents called the school department Tuesday, Lancia said, and the district is doing all it can to assure inspections are completed on time in the future. He said the transportation department has started a new protocol for inspections and have set alerts to notify officials when inspections are due.
“It’s something that won’t be happening again in the future,” Lancia said. “Safety is our top priority.”
Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.
Six buses in the Westbrook School Department were pulled from their routes June 6 because they were months past due for inspection.