Bus drivers, emergency responders prepare for coming school year

At the Aug. 21 mock bus disaster, emergency responders practice the job of extricating victims from an overturned school bus.

Mock bus disaster serves as educational tool – 

Story and photos by Patricia Beech – 

An accident that topples a school bus trapping three victims inside was the mock disaster scenario played out Monday, Aug. 21 for bus drivers from across the Ohio Valley School District.
The event, which took place at the Bus Garage in Peebles, required a group of eight bus drivers to enter an overturned bus, assess the severity of the victims’ injuries, and make recommendations to emergency crews about which victims should be helped first.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Air Evac responders, plus the Peebles Fire Department and Life Squad all participated in the event which was spearheaded by Linda Steel of the Adams County Emergency Response Team and Karen Howelett, Emergency Management Director for Adams County.
“A bus ending up on its side is something that’s likely to happen in Adams County because of our narrow roads,” said Howelett. “This event raises awareness about what drivers might face in a similar situation, so if they leave here today with a better idea of how to respond, then we’ll consider it a good day.”
Bus drivers at the event said they were eager to get back to work.
Carla Wesley, who drives Bus 46 in the Peebles area, and serves as an on-board instructor for new bus drivers, says she’s looking forward to the school year beginning.
“I’ve driven my route for a couple years now, and as much as I love summer break, I also miss my bus kids,” she said. “After a few years they sort of become like your own.”
Robin Lunsford, a substitute bus driver originally from Seattle, Washington, said even though she’s not completely familiar with all of the county’s back roads, she is excited to begin her second year as an ACOVSD bus driver, “I was a teacher and bus driver in Seattle, but after retiring I discovered I missed the work and being around kids,” she said. “I’m excited to get back to work – every road in Adams County is a new road for me to travel.”
According to Larry Bennington, Director of Bus Service for the ACOVSD, all of the district’s 67 buses have passed inspection and are road-ready.

A mock victim is removed from an overturned school bus during the Aug. 21 mock disaster at the Peebles Bus Garage.

Bus inspections are handled by Trooper Neil Yockey of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, “We check the buses out top to bottom,” said Yockey, “We inspect everything that has anything to do with safety on a school bus before we certify it to run for the next school year.” Yockey said every bus in the district is inspected twice a year to be certain they’re in compliance with safety standards.
Students using bus transportation to and from school this year had the opportunity to meet their drivers during Back to School Night on Monday evening.
“We like to give parents and students a chance to familiarize themselves with the drivers and to ask any questions they might have,” said Bennington. “We’ve done this the last few years and parents say they like having that interaction.”
Bennington also said the Buster the Bus Safety Program will return this school year to ensure that students understand the rules and regulations of bus safety.
Summer staff at the bus garage includes two full-time, ASE certified master mechanics, Darryn Dillow and J.D. Rosselot; two mechanic’s helpers – Terry Abott and Larry Newman; two bus cleaners – Joe Price and Cathy Fox, as well as a body worker, Tim Williams. Diane Palmer assists with maintaining the bus garage property grounds, inside and outside, and Jeanmarie Decker runs the support truck, delivering mail, paper, and furniture.
Changes in bus numbers for the new school year include: West Union area – Walt (Junior Adkins) Bus 42, new driver Ron Baker – Bus 53, Cathy Fox – Bus 56, Heather Pollitt – Bus 7, and Jeff Ross – Bus 20;
North Adams area – Terry Robinson was Bus 8 now Bus 3, Carrie Stopa was Bus 18 now Bus 28, Danny Haslam was Bus 54 now Bus 60, Kara Robinson Bus 22, and Kevin Pence was Bus 6 now Bus 52;
Peebles area – Jeanmarie Decker was Bus 53 now Bus 57, Pam Tong was Bus 52 now Bus 59, Malita Tong was Bus 7 now Bus 6, Jeff Monroe was Bus 20 now Bus 39, Carl McFarland was Bus 83 now Bus 3, and Heather Thorp was Bus 3 now Bus 54.
Drivers attending the Adavanced Driver Class over the summer included: Sue Perdue, Pam Tong, Jeanmarie Decker, Diane Palmer, Tammy Hill, Kristi Tong, and Heather Thorp.
All drivers received certificates for their participation.
“I am very proud of these drivers for taking time out of their summer vacation to make themselves better at their job,” said Bennington.