Editor’s note: Answer Line was on assignment this week. Look for new questions and answers soon. In the meantime, enjoy this best-of column from 2017.
QUESTION: I’ve noticed one thing a lot of school districts do and somebody told me it’s against Texas Department of Transportation rules: Kids sit three to a seat. That’s fine for elementary schools. What happens when middle, junior high and high school students are sitting three to a seat? The third child is hanging out in the aisle. I’ve heard they’re not supposed to block the aisle. Why do school systems let that happen? Why do school systems get away with that when they know they’re not supposed to be blocking the aisles?
ANSWER: I found that state and federal regulations don’t specify how many students may sit on a bus or in a bus seat. Instead, they call for school bus operators to follow the bus manufacturer’s design for bus capacity regarding how many children may ride on a school bus.
“The school bus manufacturers determine the maximum seating capacity of a school bus,” information from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says. “The manufacturers use this number, which is based on sitting three small elementary school-age persons per typical 39-inch school bus seat, in the calculations for determining the gross vehicle weight rating and the number of emergency exits. School transportation providers generally determine the number of persons that they can safely fit into a school bus seat. Generally, they fit three smaller elementary school-age persons or two adult high school-age persons into a typical 39-inch school bus seat.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also recommends bus passengers be seated completely within the school bus seat while the bus is moving. Federal regulations do prohibit obstructing access to emergency exits on school buses, so that means students block the aisles by not sitting in the seat all the way.
I turned to a couple of local school districts for examples of how they address bus seating capacity. At Pine Tree, Transportation Director Jack Irvin said the district uses mostly 83-passenger buses.
“We target loads at 65 for primary through elementary school, 60 for middle school and junior high and 50 to 55 for some junior high/high school combined routes,” he said.
At Longview ISD, Transportation Director Ray Miller said the district generally allows three students to a seat in elementary grades and two to a seat for secondary grades.
“Naturally, there may often be exceptions to this rule if you have larger-than-average elementary school students or smaller-than-average secondary school students,” he said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety recommended that you take any problems you see with bus seating capacity to the school district involved.
Q: Were the streets Clinton and Rodden in Longview named after Bill and Hillary Clinton? Just wondering.
A: I’m going to say no, for a couple of reasons. First, the former first lady’s name is Hillary Rodham Clinton, not Rodden. Secondly, he was born in 1946, and she came along in 1947.
Roger Moser Jr., supervisor of the city’s Geographic Information Systems, was kind enough to provide me the plats for the subdivisions that included those streets. Rodden is in Greggton Estates. A plat showing the subdivision’s streets and layout for the first phase was filed in 1952. Clinton is in Clearmont Acres, the plat for which was filed in 1959.
That would have been years before there was any reason to name anything specifically after the Clintons who served in the White House.