TRURO, Iowa (WOI) – After a deadly school bus crash in western Iowa, the National Transportation Safety Board is taking steps to prevent an accident like that from happening again.
“Every school district, every superintendent wants their students to be safe, wants their drivers to be safe,” said Sharon Dentlinger, Superintendent of I-35 Schools. “And any time we can get recommendations to make that happen, I think the districts really appreciate that perspective because it’s not something that we deal with every day.”
Dentlinger is entering her second year in charge of Interstate 35 schools. And after the NTSB’s latest bus safety proposals, her team faces a new set of challenges beyond maintenance.
“Having those recommendations, having that guidance and thinking future I think are all key to ensuring that continued safety,” Dentlinger said.
How effective those proposals will be is the pivotal question for Bobbie Finley, her transportation director.
“If they’re talking sprinkler systems, it’ll take some time to get everything retrofitted. It’s not going to be an immediate fix,” he said.
So, one of the biggest issues the district is going to encounter is the fact their buses were all built in different years. One was built in 2014, and another is from 2010. And retrofitting is especially difficult because of the way the roof is designed on this one.
Iowa code limits where those changes can go.
Another proposal is making sure all drivers are medically fit to drive. While Finley says the intentions are good, it may worsen an already existing problem.
“It’ll make it difficult for everybody in the state of Iowa, because right now most bus drivers are retirees,” he said.
As they grapple with their options, their end goal remains the same.
“We haul the world’s most precious cargo, and that’s something we need to take seriously,” Finley said.
Districts like I-35 say they’ll need a lot more specifics from the NTSB and whoever might mandate school bus changes before they can start really implementing these changes.