by Lisa Tome
Dale Brown, Sr. had 69 days between the end of the school year and the start of the next to get his buses ready.
"We've got to go to work. We don't get a break," said Brown, who has been a Cecil County Public Schools bus contractor for 35 years. He owns 17 buses. His son, J.R., owns 10.
Brown's buses serve all the county high schools, most of the middle schools, and the elementary schools at Holly Hall, Gilpin Manor, Cecil Manor, Kenmore, Leeds, Bainbridge, Chesapeake City, and Charlestown.
Getting buses ready for the new year is a great deal of work. All the wheels have to be taken off each bus for inspection. Brakes need to be installed and inspections performed. Each bus gets a thorough check under the hood and routine maintenance completed. Inside the bus, seats are repaired if they've been vandalized. Graffiti is removed.
"We were lucky this year (with maintenance). But you don't know," he said. "We repaired seats on every bus. They had holes poked in them."
The outside of the buses also get scrubbed.
"I could spend a couple days on each bus. More than that depending what's wrong with them," he said.
One worry he didn't have this year was hiring drivers. "All mine came back," said Brown.
Despite the short summer, Brown is anxious to get back to school. "It's a good job. I like the kids. I get along with them. Most of the kids are pretty decent. I drove more this year than normal because my wife, she's the sub, broke her arm," he said.
In preparation for the first day, five buses will be kept in Perryville. The rest are parked in Elkton.
"We're ready to go," said Brown. "I knew it was all going to get done. But I didn't know how many hours a day I was going to have to work."