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Watauga County Schools nets high marks in state bus safety inspections

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Last Updated on October 19, 2021 3:01 pm

BOONE — Watauga County Schools has received a high rating on the annual North Carolina bus safety inspections conducted by the Department of Public Instruction. Each year, officials from the state visit every school district in North Carolina to assess the condition and upkeep of their buses.

The inspections are scored on a demerit system in which a lower score indicates a better performance. Last year, the state average inspection score was 32 — Watauga County Schools scored 21.75 on this year's test.

The annual inspection tests school districts on several criteria regarding the upkeep and maintenance of its bus fleet. Transportation Departments are judged on the overall condition of the fleet, their quality of their monthly in-house inspections, their paper and electronic records, parts inventory, and office procedures.

Watauga County Schools Maintenance Director Jeff Lyons said the positive inspection report was the direct result of the dedication and skill of his team of mechanics.

“We are very lucky to have a great group of skilled mechanics who are responsible for our fleet,” Lyons said. “They are not only highly-trained and capable in their craft, they truly understand and appreciate their skills and careful work directly translates to the safety of our students on the road to and from school.”

Lyons said the responsibilities of the crew who work on Watauga’s buses didn’t stop in the garage. Several members of the team are also on the district’s road check team that assess road conditions on inclement weather days.

“These guys have a deep understanding of what kinds of conditions our buses face every day, so they are well-suited to give us information on road conditions when there is snow or flooding that might impact travel,” Lyons said. “Our crew is out as early as 3:30 a.m. on inclement weather days checking roads and back in the garage for the rest of the day making sure our fleet is in top condition. I’m very proud of the work they do everyday.”

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott said he was proud of the work of the Watauga County Schools bus maintenance staff and applauded them for their professionalism and attention to detail.

“Watauga County is home to some of the most challenging conditions for school buses in the state of North Carolina, and it takes a very skilled and dedicated team to keep our fleet running all year no matter what the conditions,” Elliott said. “We are all familiar with some of the more visible roles that make running a school possible every day, but the behind-the-scenes work like what goes on in our bus garage is hugely important to the success of our schools.”

The Watauga County Schools bus fleet runs roads from 1,500 to 5,500 feet in elevation and travels more than 2,400 miles each day, carrying more than 1,600 students to each of Watauga’s K-8 schools and Watauga High.

Pictured are Watauga County Schools Transportation Department employees, Debbie Ray, Amber Nelson, Jeff Lyons, Kevin Winebarger, Gary Church, Nathan Jernigan and Dillon Smith.

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