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City High more alert after bus crash

BY AUDREY SMITH | FEBRUARY 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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A December bus accident has become a learning experience for City High, allowing administrators to think more critically about students’ safety.

The Dec. 4, 2010, crash involved 14 members of the high school’s junior-varsity wrestling team as the members traveled to North London, Iowa, for a meet.

The bus rolled over when it hit an ice patch, injuring six passengers and the driver. John Bacon, the principal of City High, 1900 Morningside Drive, said the injuries were “nothing permanent.”

Since the accident, the school has placed higher emphasis on keeping updated rosters for traveling extracurricular groups. Bus chaperones and school administrators should have access to the list of students as well in case any problems arise, Bacon said.

Because the administration had access to a current list of wrestlers, officials were able to contact parents easily, he said, which showed how valuable the roster was.

“We are just extremely thankful that all the kids were OK,” he said.

He also pointed to the district’s automated calling system as a helpful tool for notifying parents of any problems with travel.

But administrators did not use this system to notify parents of the bus crash in December.

“In this particular case, it was not a very large group,” he said, explaining that administrators had used the roster to “split up” the students and call parents themselves.

City High students expressed concern in the school newspaper, The Little Hawk, that the crash would limit travel for other winter extracurricular activities. But Bacon said student travel would not be affected because of the December accident.

While other schools in the Iowa City School District said their busing policy are not seriously affected by instances of winter weather, administrators at West High and Tate High said their schools alsotake safety precautions during snowstorms.

If an activity is not canceled, however, it is OK to transport students.

“If the event’s going to happen, then that means we think it’s safe enough for the kids to get there,” said Molly Abraham, an assistant principal of West High, 2901 Melrose Ave.

But out of concern for safety, bus drivers will drive more slowly during instances of winter weather, which often causes students to arrive late to school, she said.

Stephanie Phillips, the principal of Tate High School, 1528 Mall Drive, said the “open relationship” the school has among its students, parents, and administrators facilitates communication about issues of travel during winter storms.

“We usually do not have a problem,” she said.

Superintendent Steve Murley said City High’s heightened safety awareness since the crash is understandable, because schools usually take a more “conservative approach” after experiencing some kind of problem.

“The issues of weather are always a judgment call,” he said. “[The changes] are certainly not a surprise to me, and I think it’s part of the process [of moving forward from the accident].”


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