by Leah Eclavea

Guam - With school set to begin next week, it's not just students and faculty preparing for the new school year.  The Department of Public Works is prepared to provide bus operations to transport the precious passengers to and from their respective campuses.

With a daily mission to transport 39,000 of the island's school children to and from school, DPW has a daunting task to ensure their buses are up to the challenge. Director Joanne Brown says there are significant improvements from the bus situation the department was faced with last year.  121 buses are operational compared to less than 85 buses that were ready for last school year, not to mention the department had to lease an additional 15 buses to supplement its fleet.

She said, "If you don't get consistent funds to address routine maintenance of the busses, the busses that run everyday, and if you look at the bus schedules and see the number of routes that DPW bus drivers have to undertake everyday, you're going to end up with a situation where we were at last year."

With additional funding made possible with the help of lawmakers, DPW has been able to address the maintenance and repair of buses but they are working to repair another 7 before school starts.  The department is also looking at obtaining other federal funds and grants to keep the fleet up and running.

Brown says a law passed last year that provided funding for the bus repairs also provided for the construction of additional bus shelters that she says are desperately needed, adding, "We've been able to provide funding for 65 shelters, 55 which have been completed to date and we're waiting to see the finalized list from the Mayor's Council on the recommendations of how many busses per village because obviously 65 is nowhere going to address the demand out there."

Brown is concerned because a number of the concrete bus shelters that were installed in the 90's were not placed on public easement and some subdivisions that are being built around the island do not have a bus shelter in the area.  If there's no public easement available, she says DPW can't appropriately install a shelter.

She said, "We hope in the future for future subdivision construction that that issue is taken into consideration before approval is given for construction because it makes no sense whatsoever to have a housing subdivision and have no shelters for students who have to go to school everyday."