How safe is your child's school bus?

TRI-CITIES - With the opening of school next week, Action News knows your child's safety is of the utmost importance. After two scary mishaps last year in Richland and Kennewick, we carefully examined how drivers are getting trained for this next school year. All to prevent that worst-case scenario.

You think it's an innocent scene. Sending your kid to school on the bus. It's why parents were shocked last year, after a Richland child was dropped off at the wrong place with the wrong person.

And another instance in Kennewic, when a child was dropped off 25 minutes early near 395 and West 19th.

I called each district's transportation director, and specifically asked Richland and Kennewick if any procedures have changed:

Reporter: "How has the district responded to that incident?"
"Well, we've put together a procedure that will ensure that parents have notification if and when we do change bus stop," said Kennewick Transportation Manager Ethan Schwebke.

Now, these are sent home with parents in Kennewick. It states that routes and arrival times may change the first few weeks. Richland tells me they're asking drivers to sign off on written procedures - to ensure they're understood.

"The school bus driver is a huge part of the kids' day," said Pasco mother Jeri Morrow.

Jeri Morrow's son walks to school, but she has no qualms about putting him on a bus. She's adamant about drivers getting the best training possible.

"Schools do a pretty good job of screening people, making sure they're safe - they get where they're supposed to go," added Morrow.

Drivers undergo several background checks. Every district trains drivers on an annual basis. Going over policies, driving expectations and safety procedures. This year, drivers got new training on how to identify bullying versus fighting.

"They have to be of the utmost character to be on the bus with the children. Especially when they're unsupervised," added Schwebke.

All to provide the best care to your child. School officials emphasize, it's essential to talk through the bus route with your child. Kennewick School District also added new cameras to 30 of their buses. The upgrade cost $70,000. They hope to phase in more buses next year.