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Posted at 11:18 AM ET, 10/29/2009

Alexandria Schools changes bus procedures after incidents with kindergarteners

By Valerie Strauss

Alexandria City Public Schools revised its bus procedures following two incidents in which kindergartners were let off when they should not have been.

Superintendent Morton Sherman said in a release that he had found “some system-wide issues at several levels” and had ordered changes that make it easier for adults and kids to identify the buses they are supposed to be on and where they are supposed to get off.

He also said “disciplinary action has been taken where appropriate,” presumably in the case of earlier this month of 5-year-old Gavin Salinas. He was put on a bus even though he was supposed to stay at school, and then dropped off in a neighborhood he didn't know. Kids found him wandering the streets and helped him.

A second incident occurred last week when another kindergartner, a girl, was allowed to leave a bus at her bus stop when her mom wasn’t there to get her. It is the district’s policy that kindergartners must be met at the bus stop by an authorized adult.

There have been different versions about what happened in this instance, but Amy Carlini, district spokeswoman, said the bus driver then saw the mother walking to the stop, realized the mistake and drove the mother back to the stop. Officials were able to piece together what happened with the help of a video taken on the bus.

Here are the new regulations:

*All kindergartners will leave school with stickers (or another form of ID) indicating that they are kindergartners.

*Every bus now has a large animal sticker on the window nearest to the door. Students who have trouble remembering their bus numbers may find it easier to remember their animal.

*Bus drivers have signed a letter of procedures which affirms that they will not drop off any kindergartner unless a parent or someone designated by a parent is at the bus stop.

*A work group of bus drivers, administrators, teachers, parents and after school child care providers will meet to revise division-wide procedures for school arrival and dismissal to ensure the safety of all children.

By Valerie Strauss  | October 29, 2009; 11:18 AM ET
Tags:  Alexandria bus policy, child lost  
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Good news! I have two pre-schoolers in the ACPS system (developmental delays) who take a bus to Jefferson Houston. I would hope that the stickers are also applied not just to kindergardeners, but also to preschoolers.

The animal idea is a good one. One of my two is hyperlexic, but the animals will help his brother.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | October 29, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow. I just learned about this yesterday, from the companion piece (about another jurisdiction) that linked to the first Alexandria incident.

All of the measures implemented by Supt. Sherman are worthy, of course. But I am nonplussed at the fact that other basic measures were apparently not implemented sooner - or followed by all of the responsible persons, including parents - to the extent that a young child could actually get lost without any meaningful ID on his person.

I have sent 2 kids through ACPS, from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Each year, in elementary school and also in middle school if my memory serves correctly, each child was given a "transportation ID card" (my spur-of-the-moment description) to be filled out by the parent and kept in the child's backpack. The information included the child's name, school, bus route (or "walker" or other similar info), grade and classroom/homeroom I think, and contact info for the parent/family (phone # and possibly address; my memory has faded somewhat). I dutifully filled out these cards - or supervised my children doing so when they were old enough - and affixed them to the inside of the backpacks each year. If the parents of the misdirected Mount Vernon ES Kindergartener had done this, there would have been no delay in promptly identifying him and getting him properly taken care of.

There were also, on each elementary school bus, responsible upperclassmen - 4th & 5th graders chosen on the basis of honor and dependability - designated as "bus patrols", whose duties included assisting the younger children.

In addition, the teachers and other school staff were entrusted to see that each child in the younger grades got on the correct bus. I recall that the Kindergarten children were specially dismissed and walked to the bus area by their teachers so that the teachers could assist in this process.

Needless to say, I never had a lost child.

Posted by: nan_lynn | October 29, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

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