Courtesy of: Associated Press

Some lawmakers want to shift inspections to a new department, and that move could derail a bill that closes a loophole regarding buses with chronic problems.

DES MOINES -- Most Iowa lawmakers agree that changes need to be made to the state's system for inspecting school buses, but it's unlikely a bill will pass this year because they can't agree on what should be done.

A bill that would help close loopholes in the inspection system by requiring buses with serious problems to be re-inspected before returning to service passed the Iowa Senate on a 46-2 vote.

At least 99 school buses in Iowa have been found to have the same problems in consecutive inspections over the past five years. And Iowa school vehicles that carry fewer than 10 children aren't required to undergo safety inspections.

Some lawmakers now want to shift bus inspections out of the Education Department and into the state Transportation Department, and that move could derail the legislation, the Des Moines Register reported.

Republican Rep. Kevin Koester, of Ankeny, said school buses should undergo the same inspections as commercial vehicles, even if the revised bill can't be passed this year.

"I am not in a hurry to pass a bill that's not that adequate," he said. And the Education Department can make some changes to the inspections without a new law.

But former lawmaker Mike Cormack, who works for the Education Department, said moving the inspections would only delay needed improvements.

"It's careless and reckless to do lawmaking on something as important as the safety of children in the waning days of a legislative session," Cormack said. "The best thing would be to take the more well-vetted legislation and send it to
the governor's office."

Koester said moving inspections to the Transportation Department should save school districts money.

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In honor of Justin William Bradfield:

Courtesy of:  By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

The Janesville Consolidated School District is rolling out new school bus technology after a tragedy struck.

Many vividly remember the smile of Justin Bradfield, 11, who died much too early. In October of 2011, Justin got
off the school bus and crossed in front of it. The bus driver didn't see him and hit him.

"Through that bus tragedy that happened at our school, there was more of an awareness that came about the safety of our kids out there."

Crews installed child detection sensor systems on two buses within the last few weeks. Sensors are located all around the outside of the bus in in hard-to-see places. If a child is anywhere within four feet of the bus an alarm goes off inside to warn the driver.

"This is the LED Screen that shows the zones around the bus,” said Justin’s Father Ryan Bradfield.  Bradfield knows everything there is to know about the sensors.  "It can read through snow, ice, mud and dust,” Ryan Bradfield said.

For him, this project is personal. His little boy and his smile faded away after a school bus hit him in 2011.

"When he was walking in front of the bus he dropped something, and he bent over to pick it up and the bus started in motion,” Ryan Bradfield said.

Ryan Bradfield is part of the Smile Big Foundation organized in honor of Justin. The foundation raised thousands of dollars to pay for the sensor systems.

"The funds that they've raised already are quite a bit, and it's just a proud moment for our town of Janesville,” said Janesville Secondary Principal Jen Poock.

Ryan  Bradfield has one hope through this project.

"Just to prevent this from happening to anybody else,” Bradfield said. “Losing a child in this way is just terrible.”

For the school, they said stepping up with these new sensors is playing an even bigger role.

“We’re doing, not only something about this, but we’re raising awareness too,” Poock said.

"Justin would be thrilled, yeah, this is something that would be really neat for him,” Bradfield said.

Janesville’s school bus sensors are part of a pilot project organized by the Iowa Department of Education. Buses in Spencer and Mason City are also playing a role in this testing process to make sure the systems work well on school buses in Iowa.

By the end of the school year, the department will decide whether or not to give the "okay" for schools to use them.

Ryan Bradfield and his foundation are hoping that after the trial process, they'll raise enough money to equip all of Janesville's buses with the sensors.

The Smile Big Foundation is holding a benefit on April 6. It will be from 6 p.m. to midnight with a silent auction and live bands on the National Cattle Congress Grounds in Waterloo.

The money will help them fund the bus sensors and other projects in Justin’s memory. For more information visit

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