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Dawson-Bryant students practice evacuating school buses

DEERING-- Hundreds of children at Dawson-Bryant Elementary School leapt out of the back doors of school buses yesterday morning.

They didn't get in trouble for it. In fact, they were required to do it.

The students participated in state-required bus evacuation drills, which are similar to fire or tornado drills, Principal Eric Holmes said.

Today, they will participate in safety drills, which were the idea of the district's bus drivers. Some of the things being taught to the children are bus drivers' hand signals, how to use crosswalks, and where to stand while waiting on the bus.

"Unless the kids are 10 feet in front of us, we can't see them," said Tom Allen, a district bus driver. "Sometimes, kids don't know better and they'll run down the side of the bus or even behind it."

Tom Gillenwater, the bus driver trainer, said when children have to cross the road to get on the bus, drivers will raise their left hand with their right hand placed on the horn. When it is safe for children to cross, drivers drop their hands.

The same procedure is in place when children are crossing the street after their rides home, except for the drivers raise their right hands.

Drivers have their hands on top of the horn to alert children in danger, Gillenwater said.

Part of today's safety drills will also emphasize bus behavior.

"When the kids scream and holler on the bus, we don't know if they're hurt or sick," said Allen, who added that bus behavior has improved significantly since the safety drills began a few years ago.

Fifth-grade student Andrew Allen and Anthony Pemberton, a second-grader, shouted "We're heroes!" repeatedly as they stood at the back door of one of the buses helping their schoolmates get out.

Both Allen and Pemberton said in the event of a real emergency, they would still help the other students off the bus.

"The kids have fun, but they realize how important and serious this is," said Diane Miller, a kindergarten teacher. "We try to teach them how important it is for them to be good listeners and do what the driver says." Amelia Pridemore/The Ironton Tribune