N/GRV school board discusses bus safety


January 27, 2022

At the beginning of the Naselle/Grays River Valley School District board of director's meeting on Jan. 18, Superintendent Lisa Nelson presented plaques to the volleyball coaches, Bekah Wirkkala, Hanna Higginbotham and Kayti Updike for their fifth place finish at the state tournament in Yakima.

At the December board meeting, the main topic during public comment concerned questions regarding students’ safety when riding school buses. All board members were present including Tyson Vogeler, who was present by phone.

During the public comment time on the agenda, two parents were present with questions for the board. First to speak was Roger Hodges. He questioned the board regarding a list of questions that were given to the board in November.

In response, Chuck Hendrickson, board chair, informed the group that those questions were previously answered in a letter signed by all board members, stating that the board had decided to officially comply with state Dept. of Health recommendations regarding the use of masks at sports events and covid testing of winter sports’ athletes. The letter was distributed at the November meeting and was fully published in The Wahkiakum County Eagle. [The first publication of this article incorrectly stated "CDC" instead of "state Dept. of Health".]

The second with questions was Marijane Anderson, who was concerned about a bus driver for sports events who was reported to be watching students in the mirror to make sure they were wearing masks instead of watching the road.

In response, the board requested that Mrs. Anderson contact the administration rather than bring it to the board directly as the board cannot discuss personnel matters in public.

Suggestions were made regarding the best way to contact the administration via Superintendent Nelson, such as emailing her at lnelson@naselleschools.org, leaving her a message at the district phone number (360) 484-484-7121 option 2, or calling that number to ask for a meeting with either Lisa Nelson or Principal Justin Laine.

In further business, Nelson reported that starting in February, Pacific County will provide the school district with a counselor two days per week for K-12. Nelson also shared that make-up days have been set on March 2 and 3 for missing Jan. 7 and 12 due to inclement weather when staff and students could not get to school because of flooding and the closure of Highway 4.

Board Member Tyson Vogeler reported that he has been following the Washington State Legislature’s work to be voted on in the next few weeks. Nelson announced that January was board appreciation month. Many ‘thanks’ were expressed by Nelson and others present for the board's individual commitment to the children and families in the district.

The morning after the meeting, a call was made to Karl Smith, supervisor of school transportation, by this reporter. Smith was asked how the bus drivers were trained for situations with sports team trips because occasionally a driver is one of the substitute drivers. Smith said all drivers are required to meet the special conditions of a Commercial Drivers’ License, regardless of whether they are a full time driver or a substitute.

He also stated that he is clear with all drivers that they are responsible for the safety of everyone on the bus. Coaches and other adults aboard are also made aware of their responsibilities regarding behavior when they are aboard with children and youth. The driver is to pay attention to the road and driving conditions. Other adults on board are to monitor behavior. However, if a driver is uncomfortable with the level of supervision or has a concern over masks or other behavior, he or she may have ultimate decision making authority.


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