After a snowstorm stranded children on school buses for hours in South Orange and Maplewood last month (and paralyzed travel throughout the region), the school district is taking steps to ensure the safety of students on buses in case of future similar events.
Acknowledging that climate change may make events like Winter Storm Avery the “new normal,” SOMSD Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Ficarra said that the district is planning for more such emergencies. In that regard, the district asked the BOE to approval two resolutions last night to purchase GPS systems and equipment for both its in-house buses and its contracted buses (see attached).
Ficarra said that the district is also creating updated “cheat sheets” of parent contact information and “simple procedures of what to do in an emergency” that will be given to bus drivers. SOMSD Business Administrator Paul Roth said that the purchase orders for the equipment would processed on Tuesday, December 18 (with the approval the resolutions) in order to be “procured as soon as possible” and that the “cheat sheets” and equipment would be delivered to bus drivers as a package.
The district and Ficarra came under fire after the November 15 storm. One father took to the microphone at the November 18 BOE meeting to report that his six-year-old was stuck on a stranded school bus for three hours before being dropped off far from home and released to a stranger.
“The bus was a nightmare, kids were scared, crying, jumping around the bus and wetting themselves because their requests to go to the bathroom were ignored,” said the father. “My son was dumped out at a random location more than half a mile from his [bus] stop. He had no idea where to go and when a stranger said they would take him, he was given to that stranger…he thought he had been kidnapped.”
The resolutions approved:
- the purchase and installation of GPS systems for district buses from SEON Systems for $7,452; and
- an agreement with Verizon for a GPS Fleet Management System which includes 25 GPS devices with unlimited push to talk (PTT) for a monthly cost of $48.99 per device for contractor buses.
Read more here:
Ficarra: Paralyzing Snow Storm Might Be ‘The New Normal’ — November 19, 2018
UPDATES: Treacherous Snowy Roads Shut Down Maplewood and South Orange — November 15, 2018