Live 5 News Investigates: Old School Buses

VIDEO: SC lagging in efforts to replace aging school buses

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Funding delays mean South Carolina is lagging in efforts to replace aging school buses in a timely manner.

With a fleet of buses that are among the oldest in the country, that means some buses taking children to school today may have been ridden by those students' parents or grandparents.

State School Superintendent Mick Zais testified to the state senate that, "South Carolina maintains the only state run school bus fleet in America. It's also the oldest" fleet in America.

The General Assembly provides and maintains buses for every school district in the state. Those buses, aren't always brand spanking new. In fact most of them are not. State law says the bus fleet is to be replaced every 15 years. But Zais says more than 60% of our buses are over 15 years old.

Almost 100 of them are more than 26 years old.

Charleston County gets 250 school buses from the state. But it also leases several newer buses from Durham School Services to provide transportation for students to and from Magnet schools in the area like Garret, Military Magnet and the School of the Arts. The state provides maintenance for the state's buses, while Durham services its own fleet.

Dorchester District 2 gets about 126 buses from the state and Berkeley County accepts 194. Berkeley County School Spokesman Chip Sturgis says the arrangement works well for his district and just makes sense.

"We've looked at it and done a cost analysis in the past 5 years and found that staying with the state of South Carolina transportation system is the most cost effective solution for us," Sturgis said.

Though Zais has asked for money from the General Assembly to update the aging fleet, it has been slow in coming.

He says to replace the more than 3,000 buses statewide that are older than 15 years old would cost the state $273 million. For the past two years he's asked the General Assembly for $34 million and received less than that for buses each time.

Copyright 2014 WCSC. All rights reserved.