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home : news : north central illinois   April 29, 2016

2/19/2014 7:54:00 AM
Bus loaded with school children tips nearly on its side

Shannon Crawley-Serpette
Staff Writer

GRANVILLE — A bus carrying more than 50 Putnam County junior high children tipped nearly on its side Tuesday — and school administrators did not get the full story until more than three hours later.

Superintendent Jay McCracken told the board Tuesday night he received a phone call at 7:56 a.m. that day from Johannes Bus Service saying a bus was stuck on Swaney Road because of wintry conditions. McCracken also was told, after he asked, that no students were on the bus.

Two district administrative assistants heard McCracken’s side of the phone call in which he questioned whether any students were on the bus.

Nearly 3½ hours later, McCracken received a call about bus safety concerns. According to that caller, 51 students were on the bus when it became stuck. That caller also said the bus was three-fourths of the way on its side, which caused the children to leave the bus by the rear emergency exit. From there, the students were sent on another bus, McCracken was told, which may have been why he was told there were no children on the bus — because at that particular moment, there might not have been.

“I had no idea it was tipped (after the phone call from Johannes Bus Service),” he said. “As the story unfolded, I was absolutely astounded.”

After this phone call, McCracken called Carl Carlson, junior high principal, to ask what he knew about the situation. Carlson hadn’t heard from the bus company.

An Alert Now message from the school district was sent to junior high parents to notify them about the situation and to let them know that the district is investigating, McCracken said.

McCracken then called bus company representative Jason Johannes. According to McCracken, Johannes said he would check into it and then called back later in the day to say it was a “rookie mistake.”

“He knows that I am furious,” McCracken said.

When deciding upon the transportation contract for this school year, the board had opted to choose Johannes Bus Service, even though it was pricier than its competitor, because of safety concerns.

“We are not paying a rookie price,” McCracken said. “Ironically, the very reason we went with them is the reason they don’t deserve to work for us.”

McCracken said the district’s dissatisfaction with the bus service isn’t because of the bus drivers, but largely because of the office personnel and communication issues.

“I’m just trying to wrap my head around this,” board member Kristina Popurella said. “Wow.”

The board instructed McCracken to consult the district attorney to explore its options regarding the transportation contract.

In other news:
-Teacher Becky Boudreau said the Putnam County Elementary School Bluestem Family Reading Book Club, which is open to fourth and fifth grade students and their parents, is averaging 12-15 students.

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