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Battery thefts halt school buses in Ironton

School got off to a slow start Monday for children in the Ironton City and Ironton Catholic school districts after bus drivers discovered batteries were stolen from most of the buses.

The theft put the schools on a two-hour delay and sent school officials scrambling to get the bus wheels turning.

Ironton superintendent Dean Nance said thieves made off with 14 school bus batteries, which cost about $2,200 to replace. The district has 11 buses in all and each bus has two batteries. Nance said he was notified just before 6 a.m. Monday when the drivers were performing their daily safety inspections of the buses.

Nance said the thieves gained entry to the buses by breaking in the access doors on the sides of the vehicles. The buses are not parked in a fenced area.

Nance said parents were alerted to the delay via the automated calling system. Elementary parents were also notified of a delay for the school’s award ceremony. Some elementary students were also delayed for a scheduled field trip.

Nance said a school bus can operate on only one battery but cannot use the air conditioning. Batteries were taken from the buses that still had both, to distribute to the buses without any.

Nance also said batteries were purchased at Charlie’s Tires in Ironton. Some of the batteries were not installed in case the stolen batteries are recovered, Nance said.

“We were able to adapt and overcome and still have school today (Monday),” Nance said.

Thanks to security cameras in the bus parking lot, Nance said the school technical director is working with police to view the tapes, and is hopeful the thieves will be caught.

“When you mess with a school bus, you are actually committing a federal offense and interfering with homeland security,” Nance said. “They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Nance also commended the transportation director, teachers and parents for working together to make the day as normal as possible despite the circumstances.

The superintendent also encouraged anyone who may have seen anything or has any information to contact the board office at (740) 532-4133.