Several school bus accidents across the country recently have administrators with the Donna Independent School District taking proactive measures to protect their students if an incident was to happen.
Donna ISD’s Transportation Department offered a week-long training to students and staff on how to evacuate a bus in an emergency situation. Director Luis Solis said the exercise is not a state requirement but the district holds them once or twice a year.
“If there is an accident, children may not know how to react or what to do if they have to evacuate,” Solis said. “Training them will teach them exactly what to do. That is why the district is taking a proactive approach and making sure classroom rules are applied in the bus. Children are changing, environments are changing, and social media has a big impact on everyone so we have to be one step ahead. When an incident or an accident occurs, it affects all of us.”
Solis said trainings are important not only for the daily bus users but for those students who ride them every now and then. “The students who ride the bus on a daily basis are familiar with bus rules and how to exit the bus if it breaks down or an issue occurs,” Solis said. “But there are some students who only ride the bus when taking a field trip. Those are the students who may not be aware of what to do if there is an emergency. That’s why these trainings are important. We need to reach every student.”
Solis said most students are open to the training especially those at the elementary level. “They are excited and eager to learn,” Solis explained. “They want to see how things happen, why they happen and how they can help. We come back and ask them what they saw and we do an evaluation.”
In fact, the district picks up on things that students point out during the training. “They tell us things from the perspective of sitting on a bus that we didn’t even think of,” Solis added. “Several students tell us they can’t reach the window which makes a lot of sense because they are in Pre-K. That means they are going to need somebody who is bigger to help them if an evacuation is needed. We take notes and add them into our next training.”
It is also important for teachers to be familiar with the evacuation process and their role when they are on the bus. “Teachers need to know that they are the leaders on the bus,” Solis said. “Their role is to help evaluate and figure out the situation and how to help the students exit the bus.”
The bus drivers appreciate the training. “The bus driver is fully responsible for all passengers on that bus,” Solis said. “When they are on the road, they face all kinds of hazards and uncontrolled environments. They are the ones who say ‘thank you, this is a big help.’ ”
Donna ISD student and part-time employee Cesar Ibarra applauds Donna ISD for providing the necessary training. “I think these trainings are important because no one really knows when an accident can happen, Ibarra said. “These type of trainings can help students be aware of the procedures and know what to do if they find themselves in an emergency-type situation.”
The trainings are especially important to Ibarra. “Two of my siblings are frequent bus riders including one who uses the special needs bus so their safety is always on my mind,” Ibarra said. “I feel more at ease knowing that they’ve gone through the training.”