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Growing the fleet at the Creek

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Jerry Hillman said he’s not much of a public speaker, but he kept the Nettle Creek School Board enthralled Wednesday night.

Hillman is the director of operations at Nettle Creek School Corporation. This makes him the go-to guy for all things mechanical, electrical and safety-related in the Hagerstown school buildings.

Hillman took over the transportation department this year, too. Now, he’s the man in charge of Nettle Creek’s fleet of buses and making sure all students get to and from school safely.

Community members attending Wednesday’s school board meeting had a chance beforehand to check out the new Thomas bus that NCSC got Monday, Oct. 8. 

Fleet Maintenance Director Rick Retherford said this is the third bus at Nettle Creek to have built-in seatbelts. It also has preschool seats built in that fold up when older kids are sitting there.

Hillman told the school board that all the lights on the new bus are LEDs. This means they are brighter, which helps the bus driver and other drivers on the road, especially as winter months approach.

LEDs also typically require less maintenance than traditional bulbs, Hillman said. This will help keep maintenance costs down over the life of the bus.

“The drivers had a tremendous amount of input and opportunity to go through it,” Hillman said.

The new bus will begin transporting students Monday, Oct. 15. 

In his report Wednesday, Hillman also discussed the transportation department’s five year plan. The plan needs to include a schedule that replaces more than one bus per year, Hillman said.

Each bus has a life expectancy of 12-15 years. Retherford said that after 12 years, maintenance gets more expensive per bus.

Another concern for the transportation department is the ongoing search for quality bus drivers. This is a problem at school corporations all across the state, Hillman said.

Hillman is looking at several different recruiting and retention options. He suggested Wednesday that Nettle Creek might even be able to grow their pool of drivers by looking at people who are already NCSC employees.

While Hillman had the floor, he also gave the Nettle Creek School Board an update on maintenance matters.

The biggest issue as of Wednesday evening was temperature control throughout Hagerstown Elementary School.

For example, the large room where the school board meeting was conducted was cold during the entire meeting. Some rooms, on the other hand, have been too hot during the school day.

Unlike a home heating or air conditioning system, teachers cannot control the temperature in individual classrooms by just adjusting the thermostat. Instead, changes need to be made to the whole system.

“This is something we’re really looking into,” Hillman said.

He also thanked the teachers and staff for their patience.

In other business, the Nettle Creek School Board adopted the 2019 appropriations and tax rates, the 2019 capital projects fund plan and the 2019 bus replacement plan.

The Nettle Creek School Corporation School Board meets again at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in the large group instruction room of Hagerstown Elementary School, 299 N. Sycamore St.