MASTODON TOWNSHIP—Drivers who illegally pass school buses may have felt their ears burning when the Forest Park School Board held its monthly meeting at the township hall here Nov. 18.
It was the second of three regular meetings being held at area townships. The board’s Dec. 16 meeting will be in Mansfield Township.
Board Member Deb Divoky said the board learned from Dave Ponchaud, transportation supervisor, that there has been “a significant increase in people passing school buses when they should be stopped.”
It’s hard not to notice when school buses stop: Red lights at the top of the buses start flashing, and an arm with a stop sign at the end extends out from the side of the bus. The sign has flashing red lights, too.
“That means cars are not supposed to pass.”
By state law, drivers must stop at least 20 feet away from a school bus when its red lights are flashing. Those who pass a school bus with lights flashing are guilty of a civil infraction and can be fined from $100 to $500 plus costs. The driver may also be ordered to perform up to 100 hours of community service work at a school.
“It’s happened too many times,” Superintendent Becky Waters said. “It’s happened already six times this year.” This includes incidents when students were crossing the road—and the vehicle passed right by them.
Bus drivers keep the lights flashing until students finish crossing the road. “The last time it happened,” said Waters, “it was when he had to make sure the students didn’t cross because a car passed—at full speed.”
Waters said law enforcement has been told about these incidents. “The State Police is aware of the situation, and the cameras will pick up license plates. They investigate those immediately.”
•After discussion, the board rejected a proposed settlement about work done at the Eddie Chambers Gym over the summer. The agreement, which involves the cost of reinstalling card readers at the doors, failed on a 3-3 vote. (Divoky, Kim Scarlassara and Jim Nocerini voted no; Jason Gasperich missed the meeting.)
Shawn LaRock of IDI, the project manager, had proposed splitting the costs of reinstalling the electric card reader at the gym once the work was done, with IDI paying $689 and Forest Park paying $689.
Superintendent Waters said reinstallation of the card reader was not listed in the specifications for the door, but IDI “should have been able to see what we already had and what we needed.”
She noted that IDI has put in some push-button automatic door openers “that some day we may use.” That work was done at no cost to the district.
Board members also talked about some magnets that had also been removed during construction and were not reinstalled. “Too many little things were missed on this project,” Nocerini said.
“We hired a project manager so those little things would not be missed,” Waters said.
• The superintendent said she recently led a tour of the east end of the school building for a possible renter. “Promising but preliminary,” she said.
She also said she thinks there may be “a resolution to our pre-K situation.” That will be discussed at a work session. The district is also posting for an at-risk interventionist.
Waters said she and business manager Kathy Stankiewicz recently discussed a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development food grant with a USDA official. They finished paperwork and later learned that the $3,000 grant had been approved.
• The board held a work center retreat recently at the Listening Inn and discussed several topics with district officials.
Scott McGregor, custodial-maintenance manager, discussed the need to put out bids for the school roof and a sweeper for outside. Dave Ponchaud, transportation director, showed the new cameras and discussed new regulations coming up. Arlene Mitchell,food service supervisor, talked about the “grab and go” program started this year, presenting new food options for students.
Dwaine Anderson, athletic director, talked about potential changes in athletic conferences, especially for football because of declining enrollments at many western U.P. districts. He also discussed some needed repairs in the boys locker room.
• Waters reported on the contingency plans for the football and volleyball teams as they continue their post-season tournament trail, including possible radiothons.
• In other business, the board:
--Held a first reading of a number of new and revised NEOLA policies.
Waters said a “wellness” policy was tabled so it can be coordinated with a similar policy Forest Park already has in place.
--Agreed to ask for bids on snow-plowing for this winter. There were no bids in-house.
--Approved Roger Swets as a financial legal counselor. Forest Park has been working with him for years—Swets has moved to Dickinson-Wright.