Education

Changes coming to Olympia school buses after preschooler left in bus depot for an hour

Preschool student left alone on Olympia bus

Security video shows a commercial vehicle inspector discovering a preschool student after being left alone on an Olympia School District bus for more than an hour in November.
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Security video shows a commercial vehicle inspector discovering a preschool student after being left alone on an Olympia School District bus for more than an hour in November.

Olympia School District officials say they will install alarms on all of their school buses after a preschooler was forgotten on a bus for more than an hour last month.

The boy was supposed to get off at the first of three schools along the morning bus route Nov. 15, according to the district. But he didn’t and the bus driver and bus monitor working that day didn’t notice.

When the route was complete, the two adults parked at the bus depot and got off. The boy was found more than a hour later when a commercial vehicle inspector with Washington State Patrol got on the bus to inspect it.

The district released video taken inside the bus in response to a records request from The Olympian. It showed the boy getting on with other students at the beginning of the route.

“Everyone sit down quickly, OK? Sit, sit, sit, let’s go, let’s go,” the monitor said.

The boy took a seat in the back. When he tried to get up, she appeared to tell him to stay in his seat.

Later, the driver got off the bus without walking to the back. Drivers are required to walk the length of the bus every time the bus empties out at a school to check for children or items left behind.

The small boy left behind was not visible from the front of the bus.

Of the district’s 82 buses, nine have alarms that go off if a driver does not walk to the back of the bus and press a button. Those came installed on new buses.

The district now says it will install alarms on all its buses by the end of this school year. It also has retrained drivers, monitors and mechanics on safety policies and procedures, according to a statement.

A district spokeswoman said drivers are ultimately responsible for students and leaving one on a bus is basis for termination. In this case, the driver resigned before the district could start the process.

The monitor was put on administrative leave and returned to work “after a thorough retraining,” according to the statement.

In 2013, a preschooler in North Thurston Public Schools was left on a bus by a substitute driver, according to Olympian archives. After a kindergartner was left on a bus for seven hours in 2014, that district installed alarms on its buses to ensure drivers checked for students.

Abby Spegman joined The Olympian in 2017. She covers the city of Olympia and a little bit of everything else. She previously worked at newspapers in Oregon, New Hampshire and Hawaii.
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