Shelby Eastern Schools could be getting a hand in its effort to improve student safety.
Director of Transportation and Communication Katrina Falk told the school board during Wednesday’s monthly meeting that Michael Schwab, the grandfather of three children who were killed in an Oct. 2018 school bus accident, reached out to her offering his help in Shelby Eastern’s efforts in participating in an extended stop arm pilot program.
Falk said she had been trying to make headway with the state school bus specification committee for approval of the extended stop arm product when she learned from Michael LaRocco, director of school transportation in Indiana, that SES was too small a district to participate in the pilot program.
“That didn’t set very well with me,” she told the board.
SES has been taking steps to add extended stop arms to its buses in response to the incident, which took place outside of Rochester, Indiana. Alyssa Shepherd was convicted and sentenced in December after failing to stop in time for a stopped bus, hitting four children and killing three of them.
The extended stop arms reach 61/2 feet, two feet longer than the normal length.
Schwab reached out after seeing a story done by WRTV6 in Indianapolis that featured Shelby Eastern’s efforts.
“He wants the small districts like us and of course some large districts but I don’t think we’ll be running up against the same resistance of ‘you’re too small a district,’” she said.
One route on U.S. 52 is particularly troublesome, she said. Semis are notorious for passing in the turn lane in Fountaintown, and Falk, at minimum, would like to have that particular bus to have an extended stop arm.
The pilot program would cost the corporation $1,300, compared to around $2,000 for the purchase of an extended arm without it.
SES will be taking further steps aside from its efforts to participate in the program, Falk said.
The corporation equipped a stop arm camera to one bus on Monday and are ordering two more for routes that take State Road 9 and Michigan Road. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Department has had a presence along those routes in recent weeks as a result of drivers not following the law when buses are stopped.
Board President Jason Yantiss asked if drivers are ticketed if the video is turned over to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department and Falk confirmed that they are. She said the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office told her following the accident in Rochester that the two sides would work together once legislation came into play.
Waldron Elementary School principal Lisa Speidel and some students will also be making a public service announcement to remind drivers about school bus stop laws.
“We’re kind of in that mid-year slump and we’re starting to have some issues with stop arm violations and will put a little video together,” Falk said.