ACPS enacts its crisis emergency plan after school bus crash

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2023 at 6:43 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Augusta County Public Schools (ACPS) enacted its crisis emergency plan after two school busses crashed on Sep. 14.

Central office staff and school specific staff responded to the scene of a multi-bus crash on Sep. 14. Parents were notified by call and email, letting them know if their child was involved and up-to-date information as the scene developed.

Dr. Miranda Ball, executive director of communications and administrative services for ACPS, said student safety is the number one priority, no matter the emergency situation.

“First priority is student safety and the safety of anyone involved in whatever the emergency is,” Ball said. “Once that has been secured and we’ve gotten direction from Fire Rescue or the sheriff’s department, then it is our intent to make as much personal contact.”

ACPS staff and school specific staff are either at the school involved or the scene of the incident. For example, staff from Riverheads High School, Riverhead Elementary School and Beverly Manor Middle School responded to the Sep. 14 bus crash incident. Ball said this practice is standard for the emergency plan.

“In a situation that happens off of our property or off one of our schools, we are sending administrators from whatever school, whatever students may be involved. If it’s students from multiple buildings we will have multiple staff members,” Ball said.

After advisement from either Fire Rescue or the Sheriff’s Office, Ball said staff members communicate with students, faculty and families on the next steps for the school(s). She said ACPS pushes for personal phone calls but a “robo-call” system can sometimes be implemented for mass communications.

Updates for developing situations can be found on the ACPS website. Ball said the website can be translated to ten different languages, all of which are spoken at schools in Augusta County. These languages include Spanish, French, Ukrainian, Swahili, Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Russian, Urdu and English.

Ball said a priority of ACPS is working with students and staff after emergency services and giving them the support they may want/need.

“Our team of school psychologists often go to the building to be present with the school’s counseling staff and assist when there may need to be follow up conversations and support for students and families,” Ball said. “We try to be really explicit by letting families know that it is available to them.”