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Ripley Central unable to out-pace social media for incident alerts

December 21, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - "Parents need to realize that we will never be able to notify them of an incident before it hits social media," Ripley Central School District Board of Education President Robert Bentley stated at the board's regular meeting on December 14.

Bentley's comment was precipitated by an incident involving a school bus which took place last week. The bus attempted to go around a car parked illegally on Maple Avenue and got stuck when its left rear wheel left the street and sank in soft earth causing the bus to tilt.

District Superintendent Dr. Lauren Ormsby told board members the school followed existing protocols and dispatched another bus to the scene. Once the health of the students was assessed and there appeared to be no injuries, the students were sent on to Chautauqua Lake school, she said.

Ripley clerk Lori Koslowski made a list of the students who were on the bus,. The district contacted Chautauqua Lake about the incident and said the students would need to be checked out by the two school nurses there, Ormsby said. However, once the students arrived at the school, they went straight to class. The nurse had to pull student schedules and call them down one at a time, she said.

Because of this Ripley did not have immediate information regarding the status of each student, Ormsby said. Meanwhile, the incident had been posted on Facebook and many students had already contacted their parents. This caused many parents to be upset at Ripley's handling of the situation because they had not received a call, Ormsby said. Ormsby noted that "social media gets everything out there within one minute," and we can't possible contact parents that quickly. "We are always going to take care of the kids before calling the parents," Ormsby said. "I cannot beat social media. It's too fast."

Ripley parent Nicole Gollhardt told board members that she knew last week's incident was not classified as an accident, but her daughter, who was on the bus, made her aware of it immediately. She said the thing that really made her angry was the fact that the students did not get examined by an R.N. immediately upon arrival at Chautauqua Lake Central School.

Gollhardt said she was upset because some of the kids just said "We're going to class, we're not going to the nurse." She said by 9:30 or 9:40, most of the kids had not seen a nurse.

Board member Michael Boll suggested that "Kids on the bus need to be informed that they need to go directly to the nurse. They should be told 'the nurse has to clear you before you can go to class'."

Ormsby noted that the incident had the beneficial effect of changing the protocols. The district and Chautauqua Lake reviewed their response and made changes in their procedure because of last week's incident. "We took our bus protocols and we fused them together so we have a consistent practice," she said.

In other business, Ormsby told the board that letters went to families regarding the district's lead testing results. She said that Ripley is in compliance with New York State Public Health Laws requiring the testing of all potable water outlets for lead contamination.

Ormsby explained that there is a difference between compliance samples and non-compliance samples. A compliance sample is one that would likely be drinking water, she said. She told board members that of the 116 compliance samples tested, 25 showed lead levels above the 15 parts per billion mark.

Ormsby said that in the elementary school building, 108 compliance samples were taken, and 21 were above 15 parts per billion. She told the board that all locations in which exceedences were identified have been taken out of service, except one restroom where signage has been posted.

"We can't turn the water back on until a sample has tested below the 15 microns per billion," Ormsby said. She said that many of the sites that failed were areas that do not see consistent use. The district will begin by changing the fixtures at these sites, she said.

The letter which was sent to parents states: It is important to note that none of the sources will be put back into service and available for drinking until the sources are fully mitigated and meet New York State Department of Health Standards.



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