Springfield Public Schools District #186 unveiled a series of new and improved stop arms for 20 of their school buses Tuesday, as part of a public-private partnership.
The district is working with First Student, a long-time contractor of school buses, to install the new arms, which consist of the traditional stop sign on the driver’s side with two flashing red lights and an additional attachment that extends 72 inches from the side of the bus.
Those new arms are manufactured by BusGates, a Springfield-based firm led by Sherman Mayor Trevor Clatfelter. Springfield will be the first school district south of Interstate 80 to get the new arms, which he Clatfelter says will reduce the risk of children being hurt by drivers attempting to get around school buses.
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“I have three children – ages 12 1/2, 9 1/2 and 6 1/2,” Clatfelter said during a press conference at the district’s new headquarters. “I go to the bus stop each and every single day when I can. I watch out for my kids and the kids of other parents. This is super important to me and it’s a very passionate exercise that I believe in, trying to outfit each and every single school bus that we possibly can.”
A $10,000 donation from the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) – led in Springfield by Brad Schaive – helped provide the funding for the new stop arms. Schaive said that in a time when more and more people are running past the traditional stop arms, the newer arms will help to keep students safe and continue driving success forward.
“It is imperative that we do every single thing we can to provide for our children that are going to school,” Schaive said. “That future not only ties to their education, but the safety to get to that school and to get back home. This partnership and our partnership with (District) 186 is a point of pride for me. When I go to the schools that you’re building and the extensions, (they’re) state-of-the-art facilities. Why would we have less here?”
State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, helped sponsor the legislation – SB 2340 – that allows districts like Springfield’s to attach the new arms to their buses. Like Schaive, she thinks that getting students to and from school each day safely is of utmost importance and is upbeat about the potential of the new arms to change the way that they get to classes.
“This is a project that I can’t see how anyone would be averse to it,” Turner said. “It’s so simple, yet so fundamental to what we do in that whole educational process. It’s going to change the way that we do things and I am really excited to have the opportunity to play a small role in getting it to fruition.”
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District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill said that she had heard from bus drivers frustrated that drivers were trying to get around the stop arms and putting students’ lives at risk.
“It’s just a great reminder to our community to make sure you see school buses and make sure you know the rules associated with moving in and around them,” Gill said.
With the district being home to 210 buses on over 180 routes a day, Gill is hopeful that they can get the arms on more buses in the future.
“I believe it will be an ongoing process where we work with some of our community members (and) legislators,” Gill said. “As soon as we get another donation that we can put to this, we certainly will (add more).”