Cedarburg — Students have gotten stranded on buses twice in the month of January, and representatives from the Cedarburg School District are saying that’s two times too many.
During the first two weeks of January, there have been two incidents involving a GO Riteway bus losing traction and sliding partially off the road.
“It’s certainly not something we think should happen, but these incidents have shown us there are areas we can improve on as a district,” said Superintendent Todd Bugnacki, the day after a bus containing middle school students slid down a hill and into a ditch the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 17. “There was definitely a breakdown of communication that needs to be addressed.”
No one was injured in either incident, and all students were eventually transferred to another bus and safely transported to school, Bugnacki reported.
But in a statement issued to the public as well as to parents on Wednesday, Jan. 18, Bugnacki said these incidents have prompted the district to work on improving in two key areas.
“Although each occurrence was addressed by Riteway, district staff members are working with Riteway to guarantee immediate communication with the appropriate authorities, schools, parents and the district office whenever a bus is disabled or in any way delayed from its usual route/time,” the statement reads. “Secondly, protocols will be reviewed and improved when an incident occurs while students are riding a bus.”
According to Bugnacki, that protocol will require the implementation of clear decision-making steps that ensure student-safety is the top priority.
“The safe transportation of students to and from school each day is a significant responsibility and both the school district and Riteway take this seriously,” Bugnacki said. “Cedarburg School District administrators will work with Riteway Bus Services, Inc. to ensure students are safe at all times and the appropriate protocols and accountability measures are in place.”
The message was a welcome one for parent Michelle Pries, who said her children were involved in both incidents this month.
“It’s my understanding the way parents found out about what happened (on Jan. 17) was all different,” she said, “so I’m definitely happy to see these incidents result in more of a protocol getting put into place for when and if incidents like this occur.”
Pries said she found out what was happening first from her seventh-grade son, who she’d asked to text her when he arrived safely at school.
“I knew the road conditions were icy, but I didn’t expect to get a text from him saying the bus had slid into a ditch,” Pries said. “I’m happy with the district’s reaction to what happened. I think they’re taking the kids’ safety seriously by working on new policies and procedures.”
The roads were particularly icy that morning, so much so that Ozuakee County Sherriff’s Office Lt. Wayne Lambrecht said the officer who reported to the scene called to let the office know he was worried that his squad might also end up in the ditch.
“A plow truck with salt had gone through just before the bus, but even our deputy said he was having a hard time even walking around the scene,” Lambrecht said.
The call came into the sheriff’s office shortly before 8 a.m., according to Lambrecht, and a squad was dispatched to help manage the scene until the bus was towed around 11 a.m.
A representative from GO Riteway could not be immediately reached.