Following a March 22 school bus crash that killed two people, including a Tom Green Elementary preschooler, the Hays CISD board of trustees unanimously adopted a plan April 15 that will equip all regular route buses with seat belts by the end of the month.

Included in the plan is retrofitting older bus models, accelerating the purchase of newer buses and planning for a future bond to increase the number of buses.


According to agenda documents, the HCISD school bus fleet consists of:
  • Route buses, which are used to transport students to and from school, and are the first-choice option for field trips and other transportation needs
  • Support buses, which are used primarily for athletics or to temporarily replace route buses that are out of service for maintenance; the district uses about 40 of these buses on a daily basis
  • Decommissioned buses awaiting auction or disposal
Agenda documents state all special education route and support buses have seat belts, but 15 regular eduction route buses and 87 regular education support buses do not.

The route bus involved in the crash was a 2011 model and not equipped with seat belts, per a district news release.

Sorting out details

The approved plan consists of five components, and agenda documents state buses without seat belts will still need to be used throughout the process.

The first component is already underway, according to Chief Communication Officer Tim Savoy, who said 21 buses are being outfitted with cameras, decals and GPS equipment, and they are expected to come online in the next few weeks.

Savoy said by April 30, all regular route buses and six support buses will have seat belts.

The second component looks to process existing bus orders. The district ordered seven regular education 2024 model buses last August and is also waiting for confirmation of eight regular education 2023 model buses.

Funding for this was included in previously adopted bond measures, per agenda documents.

Officials said because there are only three major school bus manufacturers in the U.S., the turnaround time for these orders is about one year.

The third component looks to retrofit its four 2016 and nine 2017 bus models with seat belts for a total of $468,000 from bond interest money or surplus bond funds. No time estimate is confirmed, but officials say retrofitting these models would be faster than purchasing new buses.

Officials also said the district owns two 2013 models but retrofitting is not recommended as they have limited service years left.

Additionally, retrofitting buses that are model year 2011 and older is more difficult, and officials said this funding—about $36,000 per bus—would best be used to purchase new buses instead.

The fourth component looks to accelerate the purchase of 2025 model buses. The 2023 bond includes $1.5 million for the purchase of nine 2025 models.

Officials have also proposed using bond interest money or surplus bond money to purchase 21 additional buses.

An action item to approve the $4.8 million for this will come back to the board later this month or in May, per agenda documents.

The fifth component looks to the facilities and bond oversight committee to put items together for a potential 2025 bond.

According to agenda documents, the bond—which would likely be over $3.6 million—could include the addition of 22 regular education buses to bring the fleet to 80 and accommodate for six new anticipated bus routes, and may consider including special transportation vehicles, such as trip buses.

Agenda documents state that upon completion of all five components, there will be a total of 80 support buses all equipped with seat belts.

What they’re saying

Several members of the HCISD transportation team spoke during the April 15 special meeting, including bus drivers Kaitlyn Holden and Niquelle Blakely.

Holden and Blakely shared their buses are not equipped with enough seat belt cutters, and bringing back bus safety drills on each campus is needed.

Holden said while seat belts are essential, “none of it matters” unless a districtwide rule that makes them mandatory, plus stronger disciplinary action, takes effect.

Blakely added that write ups and phone calls have not stopped students from not using their seat belts.

“How am I supposed to ensure that 55-plus students who barely listen to you for the 15 to 30 minutes they’re on your bus put their seat belts on and keep them in there until I get to their stop?” Blakely said. “... I am one person in charge of the safety of over 150 students, and I can’t do it alone. We don’t have enough monitors for every bus. ... We need the support and understanding of the parents that put their kids on our buses because it really does take a village.”

Parent Megan Owen also suggested the district implement a risk-based bus scheduling policy while it waits for all buses to get seat belts so high-risk buses that travel for field trips or extracurricular activities—farther distances on high-speed roads—are ensured to have seat belts.