by Nora Edinger
WESTON -- When school buses hit the road this fall, they will be equipped with radios linking them to law enforcement and principals throughout Lewis County.
"It will be great on the first day of school," said Dr. Joe Mace, superintendent of schools. "You have new kindergartners and sometimes they forget where they live and the kid doesn't get off at the right stop."
Mace said parents will be able to alert the school if their child is not home on time, and the principal can immediately contact drivers to find out where the missing passenger is located.
The system has no transmission "dead spots" anywhere in the county and will be linked to 911 and sheriff's department systems, Mace said. He noted bus drivers will also use the radios to call in emergencies such as high water or downed power lines noticed during their daily runs.
The radios will be installed in buses in July, with the school radio bases coming in soon after. An antenna will be sited at an existing county sheriff radio facility.
The new system was made possible by a $32,500 state budget digest appropriation secured by Del. Doug Stalnaker, R-Lewis, Mace said. It replaces a number of donated radios the school had patched together in the last eight or nine years.
Mace sees the system as a key component of increasing school safety.
"When I first came here, we had no radios in the buses," he said. "You waited until they finished their runs before you found out anything."
More than 2,700 children ride Lewis County's 31 active school buses.
Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.