The 33 buses and three vans of Amherst’s school fleet are ready to roll out.
With the first days of school quickly approaching — Aug. 23 for grades one to 12, Aug. 28 for kindergarten, and Aug. 29 for preschool — all vehicles have been certified by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said district transportation head Cathy Gale.
A small army of bus drivers and aides will take to the streets next week for practice runs, learning their routes and finding this year’s pick-up and drop-off points.
Getting to this point has meant a full summer of work for Amherst Schools mechanics Jeremy Horning and Josh Ward, who’ve had help from Lorain County JVS intern Jared Sams, who is at the top of the vocational school’s commercial truck program.
They’ve been hard at work at the district garage on Washington Avenue, next to Powers Elementary School.
“Here in this garage, we do all major A’s,” said Horning, slipping into military jargon. A’s are assemblies, and it means the local mechanics handle everything from fixing dents and cracked tail lights to complete transmission and engine repairs.
Horning, who is in his first year with the district, has a long background working with vehicles. A 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army with the rank of staff sergeant, he’s logged countless hours working on Humvees and much larger transports in the motorpool. Like Sams, he got his start at the JVS.
That experience has come in handy, because Amherst doesn’t farm out any of its vehicle repair jobs to dealerships, which sets the district apart from many of its peers.
The result is a lot of work but also a big savings, since Horning and company aren’t at the mercy of the dealerships’ rates.
Horning, Ward, and Sams spent the last few months painting buses, repairing floors, beefing up brakes, and fixing fuel pumps.
A majority of Amherst’s buses are older and they take time and care to maintain, but all are in excellent shape.
“Josh and I don’t take shortcuts when it comes to the buses,” Horning said. “We don’t allow each other to do that. We have a high standard because the kids the buses carry every day are our priority.”
Workers also upgraded the transportation garage to be more efficient, including installing a new oil containment system.
At the same time, they worked on the district’s many lawnmowers, tractors, and sprayers — there are more than 70 pieces of motorized equipment on wheels that keep the district operating year-round.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.