Bus crash carrying Carey Jr. High athletes

Emergency personnel at the scene of a bus crash Tuesday, April 18, 2017, west of Richfield. The bus was carrying children from Carey Jr. High who were on the way to a track meet.

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

TWIN FALLS — In response to a Blaine County school bus crash in April, the College of Southern Idaho’s Head Start/Early Head Start program may require bus drivers to undergo physical testing.

Program director Mancole Fedder presented Monday to the college’s board of trustees. The board didn’t take action and will hear an update in August. 

Head Start provides school busing services for 3- and 4-year-olds in its preschool programs. The job description for a bus driver lists certain requirements, such as being able to lift 50 pounds.

But there hasn’t been a way to prove current or prospective employees can do that.

Fedder said he wouldn’t be able to look himself in the mirror if there was a Head Start bus crash and he didn’t know if the bus driver met requirements.

He’s working with St. Luke’s to develop a post-employment offer screening for bus drivers. It would include measures such as range of motion and grip strength.

About 40 pounds of grip strength is typically needed to operate a school bus, he said.

“It’s a big change for our program," Fedder said. "And it’s probably not going to make me very popular."

He’s working with Head Start leadership to determine where the cutoff is — basically, how well someone would need to perform on the test.

“Really, the purpose behind that is child safety,” he said.

The screening would be part of a required DOT physical. The new screening would cost $25 for every 15 minutes. For most drivers, it would take 30 minutes to complete.

Richard Mecham, 67, was charged in June with misdemeanor reckless driving after the April Blaine County School District bus crash injured a dozen students.

Police said Mecham was driving a school bus west on U.S. 26 on April 18 when he drove off the right shoulder of the road, over-corrected and rolled the bus west of Richfield.

Students were traveling to a track meet in Gooding. A dozen of the 39 Carey Junior High School students who were on the bus were hospitalized. All were released by the next afternoon.

A collision report from Idaho State Police says Mecham was asleep, drowsy or fatigued while operating the school bus. The report lists distraction as another contributing circumstance.

During their meeting, trustees also:

  • Approved the purchase of a heating/air conditioning system, which will cost up to $12,000, for the Wendell Head Start center.
  • Heard an update from the CSI Office on Aging.

The office completed a new senior services plan for 2017-2021, presented in April and May at senior centers across south-central Idaho.

Director Suzanne McCampbell also gave an update on funding for congregate meals — those served on site at senior centers — and home meal deliveries. Those make up 37 percent of the Office on Aging’s budget.

For the last few years, the number of congregate meals was averaging around 92,000. It jumped to about 100,000 in 2016 and was more than 101,0000 for last fiscal year.

On average, 74,400 home-delivered meals are served each year. After a spike up to 86,062 in 2016, the number is back down to around average.

The CSI Office on Aging ended the fiscal year in late June with $70,000 in surplus — about 5 percent of its overall $1.45 million budget — which will roll over into this year.

It’s losing $20,500 in its budget for this fiscal year, with money allocated by Congress and Idaho legislators. The formula for how much money each regional agency in Idaho will receive is weighted for high-risk populations.

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Bonneville County voters decided in May to create a taxing district for a community college — transforming the existing Eastern Idaho Technical College.

Throughout the process, CSI officials have helped in an advisory role.

CSI won’t be able to charge out-of-district tuition for students from Bonneville County, now that a taxing district exists, vice president of administration Jeff Harmon said during his treasurer’s report.

Students from outside Twin Falls and Jerome counties are billed $50 per credit — up to 10 credits or $500 per semester — to their home county.

Harmon said he expects CSI could lose $900,000 in revenue, but will also cut down on corresponding expenses. The impact will be felt mainly during the 2018-19 fiscal year.

  • Heard a report about summer maintenance projects.

Physical plant director Allen Scherbinske ran through a long list of campus maintenance or renovation projects either currently underway or in the design phase.

The number of current projects is on the lean side, he said. “But we have tons and tons of projects coming down the tube.”

Five Idaho Division of Public Works projects are planned or in progress, he said. The largest is installing LED lighting around campus to help with energy savings and student safety. The state is covering the $246,000 cost.

One of the CSI-funded projects is Lytle Signs began work last week on installing new electronic signs on campus. They’ll be up-and-running within three weeks.

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