Carroll County Public Schools buses have been inspected and are ready for students to return to school. Now officials are asking drivers to be safe around Carroll’s youngest commuters.

As students check items off their school supply lists in preparation for their first day Tuesday, inspectors have checked items off their inspections lists for school buses.

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The four-day inspection of school buses finished up Aug. 22, according to Mike Hardesty, director of transportation. That type of inspection takes place three times a year, but always about two weeks before students’ first day of class.

The inspection is “front to back, bottom to top, inside and outside,” he said.

This year, CCPS is contracting about 320 buses in the fleet. Of those, 315 are contractor owned and the remaining buses are used for training, Gateway School and Outdoor School. Route buses make up 259 of the contracted vehicles, and the others are dedicated for transporting athletes or as spare buses.

There are 259 bus routes this year after the school system condensed one route from the previous year, Hardesty said. Of those, 73 are runs for special-needs students who need transportation that can accommodate them.

The bus routes are posted on the CCPS website, carrollk12.org, where the most up-to-date information can be found in case of last-minute changes.

If any problems were noted during the inspections, they were categorized as either major or minor issues. Major issues are dealt with right away, often within the same day they are discovered, Hardesty said. The bus then returns to be re-inspected.

For minor issues, the standard is 30 days for the contractor to resolve the issue and then certify it with the Maryland Department of Transportation, or MDOT.

A school bus safety inspector from MDOT joined CCPS staff and contractors for the inspections.

CCPS works with about 40 different independent contractors for its bus needs. Bus drivers are employees of the contractors, and CCPS pays the contractor for hours and miles. However, each bus driver goes through CCPS training when they are first certified and for their annual in-service training.

Hardesty recommended that in the first weeks of riding the bus, students arrive at the bus stop 10 minutes prior to the expected arrival time for the bus. The same goes for parents and guardians who are picking students up from the bus in the afternoon.

The school calendar and student handbook both offer information about policies and procedures for transportation. For first-time bus riders in elementary school and their parents, the school system distributes a handbook.

A statewide grant will fund local law enforcement to do more patrols around areas with a high concentration of bus stops, and Hardesty said CCPS has worked with them to “identify troubled areas where we’ve seen fly-by incidents.”

The MDOT State Highway Administration held a news conference to remind drivers and pedestrians about safety, especially as children are commuting to school — some for the first time.

Last year, 133 pedestrians were killed in Maryland and 214 school-aged children were injured while walking during school arrival and dismissal times, according to the news release.

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“We are now entering back to school time, and we urge everyone to be vigilant in thinking about safety to ensure our youngest commuters are safe this school year. There is no competition between a vehicle and a child. As we should all do every day, please put down devices, avoid distractions, obey speed limits and look out for each other so everyone can make it home safely,” SHA Administrator Greg Slater said in the release.

Safety reminders for pedestrians and drivers:

For pedestrians:

• Use sidewalks and marked crosswalks whenever possible.

• Press the pedestrian signal button and wait for the walk signal.

• Always stop at the curb and look left, right and left again before crossing a street.

• Watch for cars turning in or leaving driveways.

• Walk, don’t run across the street.

• Wear light or bright-colored clothing.

• Pay attention — take off headphones while walking and no texting or playing games.

For drivers:

• Always stop for pedestrians.

• Obey traffic signs, signals and markings.

• Observe posted speed limits. Speeding only makes it more difficult to stop for pedestrians.

• Keep your eyes on the road. It’s illegal to use a handheld phone/devise or text while driving.

• When a school bus stops, the flashing red lights go on and the stop sign flaps come out — drivers in BOTH directions are required to stop. This is the most dangerous time as children getting on or off the bus.

• It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus with its flashing red lights activated and stop arm extended.

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