School District To Charter Only Buses Equipped With Seatbelts

In light of the school trip bus accident last week on Interstate 80 in Mount Olive Township that resulted in the deaths of teacher Jennifer Williamson and 10-year-old fifth-grader Miranda Vargas as well as more than 40 others injured, the Roselle Park Board Of Education (BOE) touched up bus safety at last night’s meeting.

Bus evacuation drills – conducted in April and May – were included on the agenda. Additionally, in response to concerns from parents, the board addressed several aspects of bus safety including seatbelts and other procedures.

BOE member Sundjata Sekou asked if – for bus trips where multiple buses are used – there are lists that show which students and personnel are on which bus. He stated, “One of the things that I read about this incident [was that] parents were so concerned about if their child was on [a] particular bus.”

School Superintendent Pedro Garrido responded that every principal has a list of every student and that there are additional procedures in place to ensure student and staff safety.

Mr. Garrido then proceeded to speak about seatbelts. Buses owned by the school district are equipped with seatbelts but parents last week found out that some chartered buses that are used for school trips do not have seatbelts. A couple of parents were in attendance at last might’s school board meeting to ask about seatbelts on buses used for school trips.

The school superintendent stated, “There are new laws that school buses must be equipped with seatbelts. The question comes when we charter one of the coaches, which are one of those big buses. The majority – and I called them because I wanted to make sure – they are grandfathered . . . and they are not required to have seatbelts.”

He added, “However, we have already made changes to stay away from coaches. Moving forward, the principals will be looking at school buses with seatbelts [for] all field trips that students are in . . . We look for ways to make sure that students remain safe [and will] make sure that we do rent buses with seatbelts in them. Moving forward, that’s what we’re going to do.”