Burke Co. school board weighs in on 6-bus collision

Bus crash

Multiple bus crash involving Burke County Middle School students (WRDW-TV / May 19, 2012)

Monday, May 21, 2012

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. -- We are learning more about the weekend bus crash involving area middle schoolers.

The accident stopped traffic on I-20 for hours and nearly 50 people were injured Saturday. Busloads of Burke County Middle School students were on the way to Six Flags when the accident happened.

School board members say they did everything they could to keep parents informed. The school board is backing the decisions made by teachers and chaperones on the trip, saying the students' safety was their number one priority.

Amy Nunnally, the public information officer for the school system, said, "We did the best we could, and we apologize if we didn't contact the parents quickly enough."

The school called parents individually but, unfortunately, there were some issues.

The principal of Burke Middle School released a letter (PDF) to parents citing problems such as non-working telephone numbers and unauthorized persons showing up to pick up students.

"We probably had six to seven employees on the phone starting at 11:05 contacting parents and letting them know about the safety of their child," Nunnally said.

But a lot of parents are still unhappy with the way the school handled the situation.

Shera Owens, a parent of a Burke County Middle School student, said, "The school never called us to tell us they had been in a wreck. Nothing. The only call we received was around 3 o'clock saying the buses should be back around 4:30."

But a few parents were a little more understanding.

"We did sign the waiver. We did give the school the right to take these children off. So we can't sit here and throw stones at Burke County whatsoever, because it's not their fault," said Patricia Bargeron.

And, regardless of response time or communication, the school board is just thankful the accident wasn't worse.

"Our number one priority is, no doubt, the safety of our children. And we are so thankful that they are all home today and safe. We're here for the students, and we're here for the parents," Nunnally said.

The Burke County Transportation director was at the scene of the crash all day Monday, working with Georgia State Patrol to recreate the accident.

They are also looking over video from the bus cameras and trying to determine exactly what happened. The results from this investigation will determine what, if any, action will be taken against the bus drivers.

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