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N. Collins reviews emergency response School Board acts after bus accident

Complaints over the way a Dec. 6 school bus accident was handled have prompted the North Collins School Board to review its emergency response procedures.

During Wednesday night's meeting, board President Vincent D. George apologized to parents and School Superintendent Benjamin A. Halsey acknowledged that mistakes were made at the accident scene where the bus, with six pupils on board, went into a ditch on Ketchum Road. Two pupils were taken by ambulance to area hospitals with minor injuries.

"After an initial evaluation of the accident, we realize we need to be more organized with better attention to detail when these things happen," Halsey said.

David Gier, whose son Matthew was injured in the accident, said he was not notified about the 3:45 p.m. accident until 6:20 p.m., more than two hours after he went to the police station to file a report of a missing child.

"I learned where my son was when the Lake Shore [Hospital] nurse called and asked permission to treat my son. No district officials contacted me at all until 8:20 p.m. when Mr. Halsey called me to find out how my son was doing," Gier told the board.

Gier said students on the bus reported that it took the driver about five minutes to contact the Transportation Department for notification about the accident and that students were transferred to another bus without first being checked by any medical personnel.

Halsey promised a complete review and update of the district's policy and offered a provisional solution.

"If we should have an accident in the future, the high school will be used as a 'home base' to prevent students from waiting on a second bus and to keep parents from heading to the accident scene. From there, we will notify parents," he said.

Halsey said the bus was not damaged in the accident.

The board also took criticism for appointing itself to be the district's audit committee.

"The concern I have is with the board appointing itself as a District Audit Committee. The board is charged with developing the school budget and making sure the funds are distributed in the proper manner and now the board is the oversight committee. It doesn't look good," said Dick Foster, a longtime district resident.

In other business:

Elementary school Principal John Cataldo answered questions about changes in the elementary school report cards. Cataldo recently switched from numerical percentages to a system of grading based on numbers one through four. Board members said the change has not been met with enthusiasm, but Cataldo contends that the system will motivate pupils toward learning, not just a grade.

The board learned that the position of school business administrator will be reposted and that the search area will be widened to include Rochester.

The board also learned that the district paid half of the cost of new winter jackets for its bus drivers. The cost to the district was not immediately available.

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