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CPS prepares for bus emergencies

Chocowinity Primary School students exit a bus during a recent mock emergency drill directed by Assistant Principal Spencer Pake. (BCS Photo)

CHOCOWINITY — Spencer Pake keeps a watchful eye on students as they quickly, but carefully, exit the rear of a bus parked on the Chocowinity Primary School campus.

As CPS’s assistant principal, one of Pake’s duties is to oversee school-bus operations, including making sure safety procedures are in place in the event of an emergency.

To that end, Pake spent a recent week and a half conducting emergency drills that allow bus drivers and their student passengers to practice exactly what they need to do if faced with such an emergency. CPS operates eight school buses, with an average of 60 students per bus on any given afternoon. The students range in grade levels from prekindergarten through fourth grade.

“It’s something like a school fire drill … that should be done at least twice a year,” Pake said of the bus drills. “Bus drivers are trained at the beginning of every school year. But this lets us refresh and prepare the drivers and the students.”

Pake said such drills are probably conducted at most, if not all, campuses in the Beaufort County Schools system.

“I’m sure that other assistant principals are doing it as well, or have done it,” he said. “I know that Mark Clinkscales has done it at Chocowinity Middle School.”

In preparation for the drills, each bus driver designates several of the older students to serve as helpers, usually four per bus, should an emergency arise. At CPS, those helpers are usually fourth-graders. The drills recently held near the end of the year also served as an opportunity to train third-graders to take over that important role when the 2012-2013 school year resumes in August.

“The students are trained by the bus drivers, and there is a video they can also watch that lets them know the proper procedures to evacuate the bus in case of an emergency,” Pake said. “And we want them to practice the emergency drill at least once.”

Given the responsibility of transporting students safely to and from school on a daily basis are Chocowinity Primary School bus drivers B.J. Ange, Edythe Williams, Kay Reddick, Von Mitchell, Cynthia Brady, Dee Dee Schwartz, Henry O’Neal and John Palmieri.