CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - For the first time, every student in the Mid-Prairie Community School district spent a portion of Wednesday learning how to safely exit a school bus.
“When I was in middle school, I was actually in a bus crash myself. We were on our side and my driver was not responsive. I took that to heart, and I know how traumatizing that was, and I want these kids to be as safe as possible,” District Transportation Director Teresa Hartley said.
The state requires two bus evacuation drills each year. Hartley went to a meeting last July and decided to include each student, not just children who ride the bus.
“Not every child rides the bus, except for maybe field trips. So, they don’t know what would need to be done in an emergency,” Bus Driver Kathy Miller said. “Having this day where every child gets to see what goes on, and how many exits there are on a bus is a great opportunity for them.”
Iowa State Patrol helped with the drills. They showed students all eight exits on a bus and demonstrated how to properly open them. Miller said it is something even the youngest student can understand.
“I did have preschoolers, my first group, and even they were made aware where the red handle is, is a place for them to get out, and I believe that they will remember that,” Miller said.
“Typically when we do our evacuations we just kind of point and say ‘hey this is where you get out, this is what you do, but they don’t touch. Today they’re touching,” Hartley said. “We want to make sure they know how to open the roof hatches, they can open the window hatches, get out the back door, the release above the front door, so they know that’s there is the bus is not working properly. Just to make sure they know how to get out safe.”
The Iowa Department of Transportation said buses transport 239,000 students every day, twice a day, in the state.
“We actually transport more kids twice a day than the entire population of the city of Des Moines,” State Director of Pupil Transportation Max Christensen said. “Accidents do happen, they happen in every form of transportation out there, we need all these kids all of these 239,000 kids to know what to do in the event of the accident.”
Christensen also said the department will discuss the NTSB’s seat belt recommendation. In the meantime, he recommends other districts try the all school approach.
“That is certainly something we will be looking at, I’m sure the legislature will be looking at as well,” he said. “To my knowledge this is the first time that we’ve ever seen an entire school done all at once in one day like this.”
Hartley said it’s something she plans to keep for next year as well.