CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Raymond Huffman and a crew of four mechanics work full-time, year-round, to maintain 50 Kanawha County school buses - and that's less than a third of the county's total fleet.
Huffman is the crew leader at the Elkview school bus terminal. He and his crew are just one part of the massive undertaking that it takes to get Kanawha County's public school students to class each day.
They do regular inspections, give each bus a thorough monthly tuning and, generally, just keep all the buses in their stable in good working order. They also fill in for bus drivers when a substitute can't be procured.
A major portion of what they do revolves around safety - and that's consistent across all of the facets of student transportation.
"We try to take care of them real well," Huffman said.
Statistics show that, on the whole, bus transportation is four times safer than taking an automobile. Still, each year, education officials embark on a public safety campaign, reminding student pedestrians and drivers how to stay out of the way of one another on the road every morning and afternoon.
For students, that means watching for cars at the bus stop and looking to their bus driver before they cross the street.
"That's what we really try to teach them," said Jimmy Lacy, transportation safety and training director. "The bus driver signals for them to cross because they're up there with the mirrors and they can see everything - and that's not just for elementary kids, it's for middle and high school, too."
For drivers, bus safety means not illegally passing a stopped bus.
"If they pass that bus the driver's hands are tied - there's nothing they can do at that time to help the kids," Lacy said "People get impatient and want to pass the bus and run those lights, but it's dangerous."