(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
ELIZABETHTON — While the Elizabethton City School System had the misfortune of suffering vandalism to nine of its 13 buses on Monday morning, the school system had the good fortune of being surrounded by school systems who were generous and willing to help.
“As bad as things were, we feel we have been very blessed by our surrounding school systems,” said Elizabethton Schools Transportation Supervisor John Hutchins.
Hutchins said all of Elizabethton’s buses had to be grounded as a precaution on Monday. Students were forgiven for absences and tardiness because of the bus vandalism.
Tuesday was a different story, as the students were picked up according to their normal schedule by their normal bus drivers. The only thing different was the buses.
Hutchins said the Carter County School System loaned six buses, Washington County provided five buses, Unicoi provided two buses and the Johnson City Transit provided one.
Hutchins said Johnson County also offered to provide buses, but Elizabethton had all that they needed by that time.
Another big help came from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Elizabethton. That school’s diesel mechanics course for Monday volunteered to work on the vandalized buses.
Hutchins said four were thought to be ready to roll Tuesday morning, but then more tire damage was discovered. At first, it was thought only two tires had been damaged, but now it appears there are nine.
“The tire dealers have also been wonderful,” Hutchins said. Coming to the scene with replacements. “Unfortunately, they are not cheap,” Hutchins said. Insurance will cover the bill, he said.
“On Monday, we were going in a lot of different directions, trying to get things ready,” Hutchins said. Thanks to all the help, he said it was a day where the cup was half full instead of half empty.
He said that another diesel mechanics class will be on the scene Tuesday night to work on the buses..
If all goes well, Hutchins said all the system’s buses should be repaired by this afternoon.
Hutchins said the Elizabethton Police Department continues to investigate Monday’s vandalism.
The school system has publicly thanked the surrounding school systems on its webpage:
“A special thank you to Carter County, Washington County, Johnson City Transit and Unicoi County school systems for their willingness to help us in our time of need. It is greatly appreciated.”