School officials optimistic of bus safety plan despite snags
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | February 07,2013
SPRINGFIELD — It took 20 minutes for a Springfield school bus driver to get students to sit in their seats recently, despite a new policy aimed at improving school bus safety.
Transportation Committee Coordinator Lisa Hall insists that Project SAFE will reduce the number of students getting out of their seats during the ride and improve safety despite the snag they hit a week after the new program began.
“One of the buses pulled over two times and another pulled over three times. It took one of those drivers 20 minutes to calm the children down and obey bus rules,” Hall said during a recent School Board meeting.
Hall did not provide the board with statistics prior to the implementation of Project SAFE but she said there were 12 instances of buses pulling over after the policy was implemented, adding that Monday was the toughest.
Hall said the students who ride the buses where problems typically occur attend Elm Hill Primary and Union Street Elementary Schools.
“We almost never have problems with Riverside Middle School and never with the high school,” she said.
The bus that pulled over for 20 minutes was an after–school bus taking students from Elm Hill to a Springfield after-school program, according to Elm Hill Principal Dana Jacobson-Goodhue. She said there are as many as 50 students that ride the bus and up to 30 of them take part in the after–school program.
Despite the incident, Hall said, “I can tell you it’s going much more smoothly than anticipated.” Project SAFE is the school district’s new effort to improve bus safety. Hall said Springfield schools are stepping up their efforts to ensure that all students are following bus rules and remain seated while the bus is in motion.
If students do not comply, bus drivers pull over and instruct the students to remain seated or contact school officials. According to Hall, the transportation committee received reports from staff, parents and community members that elementary school students were acting in unsafe manners on the buses.
Assistant Superintendent Zach McLaughlin said Project SAFE will work, but needs more time.
“The repeat offenders are going to come up to the surface. We have to get through this tough stretch at first and it’s working with them to work on their behaviors,” he said.
Hall said the program may cause some delays in transporting students but it is crucial that all bus rides are safe for students and drivers alike.
Jacobson-Goodhue said a school bus monitor is now riding on the bus that pulled over for 20 minutes Monday. The transportation committee will present a new report at the next meeting in March.