New public school bus fleet changing students’ commute experience

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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The Greenville Public Schools Transportation Department is celebrating the arrival of its new school bus fleet, all equipped with air condition (AC) units. The new buses are a huge win for bus drivers and students, said Superintendent Joseph Eiland, because some buses reached over 100 degrees internally during the summer months while transporting students home after school, on field trips, and during travel for extracurricular activities. 

The schools have gained 22 new buses, with eight more waiting to have AC units installed, explained Slade Piggott, Director of the Transportation Department. He said purchasing this new fleet was important to him for the drivers and students’ welfare. 

“Our buses are on the road a lot more than they used to be,” Piggott said. “Often we have about 10 buses on the road every day just for field trips or sporting events in the summertime, and they may not return until 11 or 12 p.m. It’s a lot for both drivers and students. We’ve had many drivers retire and I believe it was due to the heat. But I’m proud of the new buses we have now.”

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Piggott said the new buses are also equipped with radios that will enhance communication with drivers. The buses also have electric mirrors and four internal cameras that can see everything going on inside the bus and in between seats. 

Janet Collins, a school bus driver that has worked with the public school system for eight years, said it has been rough all these years without an air conditioned bus. 

“I’d go home some afternoons and my clothes would be completely drenched,” Collins said. “The bus drivers for Greenville Public Schools differ from others in that we pick up students from all three schools, not just one. We have to be at the high school at 2:30 p.m., an hour before we leave, just sitting in the heat waiting for students before my hour route begins. That’s a long time to be driving in the heat without an AC.”

Billie Coker, another school bus driver, said the students are better behaved and calmer on the new AC buses. 

“The heat led to more fights and aggravation among students,” Coker said. “No one wanted to be touched as they were all sweaty and everyone was ready to get off the bus and it caused a lot of disciplinary problems. I’ve seen a big difference in the students’ behavior.”

Jody Cannon, Secretary of the Transportation Department, said it is their goal to have all buses installed with AC as soon as they can. 

“We’re in the process of getting the remaining eight buses installed with AC kits,” Cannon said. “A new bus with AC included is about a $13,000 increase in price. We’re planning on installing AC in the remaining buses we have. We’re waiting on a few bids on the installation process and then will need to find a company that can install them properly.”