BAR HARBOR — Changes to afternoon school bus routines and other safety steps have been put into place by Conners Emerson School officials, following two incidents this fall during which young children were dropped at the wrong bus stop and left without adult supervision for a short while.
Following a school board meeting on the issue earlier this month, board chairman Matt McEachern penned a letter to Cyr bus lines expressing the board’s concerns over the incidents. The board also heard of other changes proposed by principal Barbara Neilly, which have now been made.
At the meeting, board members heard from Dwayne and Jaqueline Bolt, the parents of one of the children who was let off at the wrong place this fall. The Bolts have met with school officials, bus company officials and others in efforts to make sure that no such incident occurs again.
“We’re all really torn up by it,” board member Tom Burton said. “Just rest assured we’re doing everything that we can.”
Board members agreed to meet in January to review school policies concerning students walking to school and riding the buses. For now, several procedural changes have been put into place, at the recommendations of Ms. Neilly and vice principal Mike Zboray.
These changes include the installation of a radio relay station at the school that allows direct communication with all buses. Also at the school, the office will now be staffed until 4 p.m. daily, with someone familiar with contacting the buses over the radios.
Bus drivers are now to call into the school to report when their afternoon run is complete. When a substitute bus driver is used, kindergarten and first grade students will wear labels with their address and phone number on them. Teachers have copies of the labels for their students.
The concern over bus routines began this fall when a kindergarten student was dropped off at the wrong stop on the Crooked Road and spent two hours in the empty house of a former babysitter before she was found. It then came to light that an incident had occurred earlier in the year during which a first grader had gotten off the wrong stop downtown and his parents didn’t know where he was for 15 minutes or so.
Mr. McEachern made clear at the meeting this month that the incidents needed to be addressed, and that the school board officials need to keep their eyes on the situation.
“We are taking this seriously,” he said. “Nobody should be left unattended.”