This being National School Bus Safety week, students at MCISD are being prepped for any and all possible emergencies that can occur while on the road.
A former mandate of the Department of Public Safety, annual bus safety trainings have been held in Mission to educate the student population on how to handle any incidents while riding a school bus. While it is no longer a requirement from the state, the Mission Consolidated Independent School District has continued the annual trainings since 2010.
“It’s all about the safety of our students,” Lerma said. “We felt that we should continue the training for the students.”
Following the Alton Bus Crash 30 years ago that took the lives of 21 junior and high school students, MCISD has taken school bus safety very seriously. Seniors attending the MCISD high schools today have been attending these trainings every year since second grade.
“It becomes muscle memory, so if there is ever an event they know what to do,” Lerma said. “Whether the driver is active or incapacitated, they learn how to handle the emergency breaks and two-way radio. It’s just an overall step of being proactive for student safety.”
Meant to teach students about how they can save lives and prevent injuries during an emergency, the trainings provided to the students are conducted by a team of bus drivers, and have been ongoing since Oct. 9. They will run through Nov. 7.
Students gather class-by-class and enter the buses to hear from the drivers themselves, who highlight the importance of being vigilant of their surroundings and the particular details about the bus and the bus driver.
Trainings also included locating the exits and how they work, where the radio can be found and how it works, what a first aid kit looks like and where it is in the bus, the use of fire extinguishers and instructions on what to do in the event that the driver becomes incapacitated. At the end of the training, fifth grade students specifically are also taught how to evacuate from the rear emergency exit – it’s not a good idea to jump out the back, and the proper protocol is to sit first and slide out of the bus to the ground.
“We typically try to have fifth graders on every elementary route in case they have to help the Pre-K, first, second, third or fourth graders,” Lerma noted. “The fifth graders already know what to do, and they carry that on through their junior high and high school years.”
Marcell Elementary School Principal Efrain Zamora said it was great to see the kids engaged in the process and asking questions.
“We need to always include bus and campus safety in case there’s ever a fire drill,” Zamora said. “We need to ensure that the students are accustomed to this particular drill. I feel honored that the students are taking ownership and make sure they involve it on a day-today basis.”
About 5,500 students at MCISD actually take the bus to and from school, but Lerma noted that almost all students in the district will participate in extracurricular activities, field trips and special events, so knowledge on bus safety is necessary training for all.
“I feel more secure about it,” Lerma said. “If we ever have an incident, our students will perform as expected. For any student that has gone through three or four years of training, it’s second nature.”
This article originally appeared in the Friday Oct. 25, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.