The Sequoyah School has recently purchased six new vans for class camping trips, due to safety concerns raised earlier in the school year after the spinout of a cargo van during the Egret’s Perch trip to Morro Bay. The school’s existing van fleet, whose oldest vehicles were eighteen years old, has been retired.
The new vans, Ford Transits, have already been ordered from a factory in Kansas City, Missouri, and though the school had hoped they might arrive earlier, delivery of the vans may now be as late as May.
“The new vans will be ingot silver, and the color choice was made by Student Government,” said Adelaide Nalley, Director of Field Studies. “They are ten-person passenger vans, so we can have two people in the front and eight people in the back.”
Tom Wheatley, Sequoyah’s Business Manager, referring to the old vans, said, “I don’t think they were necessarily unsafe. With ten years of new technology we can take advantage of what just becomes safer and safer. Twenty years from now these vehicles won’t be as safe as the cars that will come up in the future.” The primary new technology that the new vans will provide are side-impact air bags. “They’ll all have airbags all over the place,” Wheatley said.
In addition to these safety features, the new vans will offer other modern conveniences. There will be speakers in the passenger compartment, a CD player, and an audio input, into which a cell phone or iPod can be plugged. Wheatley confirmed that the new vans will have better security than the old vans, a matter of concern after the theft of a school van last September. He explained that the keys to the new vans will have radio frequency ID chips inside, which send a radio signal to the engines that prevents hot-wiring by requiring the presence of the key to start the engine.
The new vans will all be identical, unlike the old vans. Name plates will be installed on the new vans after Student Government decides on their names.
Sequoyah has recently auctioned off four of the old vans. Three more have yet to be sold. Wheatley reported that the sold vans fetched various prices, “depending on their condition, how many miles they had on them, how they looked–you know, some of them had dents and things in them, that kind of thing, condition of tires, brakes–so it was a lot of factors.” To Wheatley’s recollection, the highest selling price so far was $2,000, and the least was about $500.
The new vans were expected to arrive before the Junior High camping trips, and their delay led the school to rent Chevy Suburbans for those trips. The Suburbans are much smaller than the vans, though some students and teachers seemed to enjoy the temporary vehicles. Junior High math specialist Catherine Tung mentioned that the Suburbans were easier to drive than the vans, and were much more nicely appointed, which she and most of the students enjoyed.
Upcoming Out Back and Over There camping trips may also use the temporary SUVs, but lead teachers do not seem concerned. “I don’t think that not having vans has made trip planning any harder, because we already have vehicles that we can use. Operations has done a great job at making sure that vehicles are ready, and here on time,” said Out Back teacher Art Phiffer.