Athens City Schools gets whole new fleet of school buses just in time for the start of the school year

ATHENS, Ala. -- If you have a child in the Athens City Schools system, they'll be riding on some shiny new buses come Wednesday. The school system just invested in an entire new fleet of school buses, and they're all ready to go.

And it's not just one, not just two, but 17 new school buses, just in time for the start of the school year. Time was up on the previous vehicles.

"They were ten years old, after ten years you have to replace. So the decision was made by our superintendent and board to replace the whole fleet, so we picked those up Friday and we're ready to go Wednesday," said Mike Bishop.

Bishop is the Athens City Schools system transportation supervisor. He said besides being new, these buses aren't that much different. However, they do have some updated features.

"They hold a little more capacity wise, they hold a little more than our other buses. They're all air-conditioned. We have Zonar on these buses, that's a little safety thing parents might like," said Bishop.

The new Zonar technology allows the school system to track where the buses are at anytime.

"We don't have to guess anymore, we know where the buses are. If a parent calls and says my bus hasn't arrived yet we can actually look and tell where the bus is and let the parent know that," Bishop explained.

With the new fleet, this means they now have some extra buses on hand, and Bishop said they're not going to let them go to waste.

"We have some spare buses that haven't reached that limit as far as ten years, so we'll be using some of those for field trips, for football games, basketball games, or any extras we might use when all the fleet's running at one time," he said.

And though the buses might be new, everything else is staying the same.

"This year the routes are the same. We have two new drivers this year, but most of our drivers are veterans and they know what to do. The first day will be busy of course," said Bishop.

For new parents, Bishop encourages attending the schools open houses, and asking questions.

"The open houses help out a lot because our bus drivers are actually at the open houses,"

He said at the open houses, parents will be told exactly what bus their kids will be riding this year, with the new numbers. They will also find out approximately what time the buses pick up and drop off.

17 new buses is a lot, but with the growth Athens City Schools is experiencing, Bishop said they might have to expand even more.

"At this time we're okay. In the future though, if the enrollment keeps going up we'll have to add additional buses," he said.