Keeping those wheels going round and round — safely

FDCSD also practices school bus evacuations

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Feelhaver Elem­entary kinder­garten students in McKayla Tjernagel’s class safely evacuate a school bus Friday morning during an evacuation drill held by the Fort Dodge Community School District.

BARNUM — Thursday was inspection day for the Manson Northwest Webster transportation department.

Collaborating to help make sure the children within the Manson Northwest Webster School District are delivered to and from school safely, was Iowa State Trooper Paul Gardener and Tom Simpson, school bus inspector for the Iowa Department of Education.

“One of the Iowa State Patrol’s responsibilities is to assist the Department of Education with inspecting school busses twice per year in each district to make sure all the school vehicles are properly equipped and running safely,” said Gardner.

Together, Gardner and Simpson made sure tires, lights, engines and everything in between meet the state’s safety and operation standards.

“I do things such as help check lights, do interior checks, make sure the seats are properly fitted. I check the paperwork and make sure first aid kits and fire extinguishers are in order,” said Gardner.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Tom Simpson, a school bus inspector with the Iowa Department of Education, and Iowa State Patrol Trooper Paul Gardner inspect one of the vans that are a part of the Manson Northwest Webster School fleet at their bus barn in Barnum on Thursday. Each school in the state of Iowa is inspected twice a year.

Simpson said he spends 10 months each year conducting the scheduled inspections. Other times are spent making those follow-up visits to make sure the school districts are making the necessary repairs to any issues found during their inspection.

“Some schools do a great job,” he said. “This one (Manson Northwest Webster) does a great job at maintaining their vehicles. Some places wait on us to tell them what needs to be fixed – that is a little scary, but we try to keep things uniform across the state as far as maintenance and keep things rolling the way they should safely.”

After Simpson inspects the lights on each vehicle, it’s then time for him to get down and inside just about every part of the bus or other vehicle.

“I do the chassis, make sure the brakes, tires, steering components are good,” he said. “We also make sure the interiors are safe for the children, that the seats are in good shape. We are just making sure children are safe with their ride”

Brenda Dobson, transportation director for Manson Northwest Webster, said the district not only complies with the school bus inspection twice a year, but offers the other vehicles in their fleet to be inspected — something she said is not required.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson

“We have all of our vehicles inspected,” she said. “We do it to ensure the safety of our students. And it does ensure we’re maintaining the fleet the way it should be maintained.”

Inspection day isn’t necessarily a stressful one for Dobson, who said the transportation crew at Manson Northwest Webster takes very good care of their vehicles.

“We very seldom have a vehicle that does not pass,” she said. “We may, occasionally have a light out or something, but we get 30 days to still operate the vehicle and in that timeframe will get it fixed.”

Gardner said he will assist in school bus safety inspections throughout his post, which covers Calhoun, Hamilton, Kossuth, Pocahontas, Webster and Wright counties.

“Every public resource officer who handles safety education roles in each post is responsible for going with the Iowa Department of Education to inspect the busses,” he said. “That is a big part of the safety education role we play, is the bus inspections – which is a good thing, because we want to make sure the busses are operating safely and most of the school districts we have, they do a really good job.”

Student safety

This past week, the Fort Dodge Community School District has been taking some of the mornings to give the students a lesson on how to safely evacuate the school bus.

Nancy Duckett, school bus driver for the Fort Dodge Community School District, was on hand at Feelhaver Elementary School on Friday giving students a step by step guide on what to do in case of an emergency.

“We are doing bus evacuations so the children know how to leave the bus safely and what to do in case of an accident or a fire,” she said. “We teach them after they are off the bus to go to a location and wait for help to arrive, whether that is the police, fire department, bus driver, teacher or their mom and dad.”

Each of the grades at the elementary school took part. They were escorted onto a bus — some saying this had been their first time on a school bus.

Duckett said they practice evacuation drills twice a year — in the fall and spring.

“We do it once with the school system like we are doing today, so everybody is exposed to it, so they know if later on when they are in sports or on the bus for something and they haven’t rode the bus before, they have an idea what to do if something happens,” she said. “The bus drivers will do this again in the spring before the end of the year.”

For this round of drills, Duckett said they used the front of the bus; but plan to hopefully use the rear of the bus in the spring giving the students more of an evacuation experience.

Motorists, Duckett said can also do their part in keeping students safe on the bus.

“They need to be more aware of these big yellow busses — you can’t miss us,” she said.

Especially when they see flashing lights.

“If those yellow lights are flashing, we are going to be turning on the reds. You need to stay back. Do not cross the stop arm. There are going to be children crossing the street,” she said. “We do this for their safety so they get home to their parents every night and we all want our children to come home safely.”


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