WESTBROOK — Superintendent Peter Lancia apologized last week for a lapse in protocol that resulted in a pre-kindergartner being left on a school bus during the evacuation of Saccarappa School Jan. 3 because of a gas leak.

Lancia

“That is extremely upsetting to me as a parent and educator and superintendent. That’s something I never want to happen again,” Lancia said.

Saccarappa was evacuated and closed for the day after a snowbank put pressure on a gas pipe and the pipe cracked, Lancia said at the Jan. 8 School Committee meeting.

The leak was discovered early in the morning, before the start of the school day. Students who were at Saccarappa already were bused to the middle school to be picked up by their parents, but one pre-K student was left on the bus.

“As our pre-K buses arrived at the middle school, it appears the student didn’t recognize the people outside of their bus,” Lancia said. “They are used to seeing their teachers when they get dropped off, but it’s our protocol that the emergency team brings the students in the building during these situations. He didn’t see his teacher, who was already in the (middle school) and didn’t leave the bus. He was brought back to the garage, where the driver then locked the bus and left.”

Lancia said the child was then reported missing but was found within an hour.

“Once the child was notified to be missing, the bus was checked and he was there. He was unharmed, smiling and happy to go inside and have a snack before being brought home to his mom very quickly. I feel horribly this happened and I apologize to the community for this happening,” Lancia said.

“We have protocols for our drivers to check our buses and that was not done that morning. We have new protocols immediately to prevent this from happening again and those are in place,” he said.

The school now requires bus drivers to check their buses after each run, as opposed to the end of the shift. It also requires drivers to complete a checklist in writing after each run, which will be turned in to administration.

At the meeting, the School Committee gave final approval to a new policy designed to ensure transgender students have a voice. The committee also said goodbye to nine-year Ward 2 member Veronica Bates, who resigned because of health issues.

“Thank you, Veronica, for all your hours and time of dedication to the kids of this wonderful city,” former Committee Chairman Suzanne Joyce said. “You’ve done an amazing job on the Saccarappa building committee, with the food and clothes lockers getting mittens and boots for the kids and doing it around the clock. You’ve spent lots of time on this. We’ve been blessed to have you.”

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for the community and for the children,” Chairman Noreen Poitras said.

The Democratic Committee has not scheduled a caucus to replace Bates yet.

“You’re leaving this community in a better place, with access to books, mittens and hats. The children appreciate what you’ve done for them and so do I,” Lancia said.

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