District describes repairs as quickly accomplished

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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Seventy-one percent of buses at Middle Township School District failed initial inspections conducted earlier this year, according to information from the state.

For the most part, however, the buses were out of commission for under an hour for repairs to be made, Superintendent Michael Kopakowski said.

In the past three years, the district’s the average bus inspections are “very similar,” one of the district’s bus mechanics told Kopakowski.

The longest a bus was taken out of service was three days, and the least was 6 minutes for repairs. One of the buses was out of service for 44 minutes because problems with the air valve and parking brake and an oil leak, according to information provided by the school district. Another one had a problem with coolant lines, putting the vehicle out of service for an hour and 40 minutes.

“I think the intended purpose of the bus inspections is working,” Kopakowski said.

School bus inspection reporting system listed the district as having an initial inspection passing rate of 20 percent, or 10 buses.

The state report described the required repairs in serious terms.

Thirty-five buses were out of service because of a major safety violation, and the busses cannot be used until repairs are made, according to information from the state.

Four buses received a 30-day rejection sticker, given for a less serious safety violation, according to the state Motor Vehicle Commission website. Buses are to be re-inspected within 30 days from initial inspection.

Kopakowski doesn’t believe there are major problems with the buses.

He said he has no complaints about the inspections because of the safety of the students is involved.

Bus re-inspections cost $25 each, Kopakowski said. Inspections and re-inspections took place in May and September.

Kopakowski said the district has 50 buses, but only 49 were inspected by the state. The state says the company may own more buses than the ones inspected.

It costs the Middle Township Board of Education costs about $120,000 to maintain the fleet, according to Kopakowski. Three full-time bus mechanics are also employed at the district.

The state’s reporting system lists 87 inspection reports for Middle Township School District. The state Motor Vehicle Commission School Bus Inspection Unit inspects school transportation vehicles twice a year, and does unannounced inspections each month as part of the Governor’s School Bus Safety Task Force.

The state handles about 24,000 bus inspections two times a year, and the state Motor Vehicle Commission website touts New Jersey as being one of the “most stringent school bus inspection programs" in the United States.

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