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GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Marshall County Schools has one of the oldest fleets of school buses in the state, but that’s changed.

“Currently the biggest part of our fleet is ’99, 2000, 2001 year model buses, almost half of our fleet are that age out of the 80. We have one of the oldest fleets in the state of Alabama,” said transportation supervisor Tim Gilbert.

A slew of new buses is changing that statistic. “We have 54 buses that are in need of some safety upgrades, and so this will be the first round of those purchases,” explained superintendent Cindy Wigley. The system is using state funds to buy 27 2018 model buses.

These new buses are loaded with safety features the old ones didn’t have. Where the older models had only one low-quality camera, the new models have four high-quality cameras with an option for more to be installed outside. They’re equipped with an arm that extends in front of the bus so the driver can better see the kids outside. “They will also have higher seats in case of an accident,” Wigley said. There’s also LED lighting and better reflectors for visibility.

“Our number one goal always is student safety, and our number one area where that’s a concern is transportation,” Wigley added.

What you don’t see on most school buses are seat belts, which aren’t required under federal regulations. In fact, safety experts say school buses are the safest form of ground transportation.

Marshall County Schools leaders hope to add more new buses to finish out the fleet over the next five years.