ASD to reinstate ‘kindy tags’ program after issues getting kids to correct bus stops

The program is back after one youngster was dropped off at an incorrect stop and another was allowed to board the wrong bus
ASD to reinstate ‘kindy tags’ program following student busing issues
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 10:39 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School District said this week that it plans to return to a practice typically reserved for the start of the school year after the second incident involving a young student and mistaken bus route in the span of about a week.

“One instance of this is one too many,” ASD Maintenance and Operations Director Rob Holland said. “It is one too many, okay, so we have to look at everything we can to improve, re-communicate, reemphasize, like using the ‘kindy cards.’ We know that system works.”

Earlier this week, the district and the parents of a student involved in a situation last Tuesday spoke out about a 6-year-old being left at the wrong bus stop in Eagle River after the boy was discovered still on board at the end of the bus driver’s route.

The parents and others were left concerned about ASD’s busing protocols, and how the district might prevent something similar from happening again.

On Monday, Holland said the district was reviewing its end-of-route practices and highlighting the errors made by the driver involved in returning the young boy to his proper stop last week.

However, this week, a different youngster ended up boarding the wrong bus, and in response, ASD has moved to reinstate its “kindy tags” program for when school starts back up in January.

These tags are color-coded index cards for teachers and bus drivers, and are meant to help get kindergarten and first-grade students boarded on their correct buses. Usually, the cards are only used for the first few weeks of school at the start of the new school year, but administrators decided the process should be implemented again district-wide. As such, the cards will be back for the district’s youngest students upon students’ return to school on Jan. 9.

“This is something we take seriously, we take ownership for,” said Holland, who said that the incident this week – combined with last week’s as well as one other earlier this school year – is the third similar episode this school year of which he is aware.

“We don’t want this to happen again,” he continued. “It is unusual – this is not normal – and we take responsibility for it. And we’re going to take means to fix it.”

Holland added that the cards are reserved for kindergarteners and first graders, a large portion of whom tend to either be new or intermittent riders throughout the year. There is no current plan to have the card system in place for ASD students who are in the second grade or older, he said.

ASD senior leadership also sent out an internal message Wednesday that was shared with Alaska’s News Source by the district’s communications team, which this week also said the driver involved in last week’s incident — who filed a report upon realizing what happened — has been counseled directly.

“In combination with our cold weather and street/sidewalk accessibility, I am directing our Elementary Schools to make a strong emphasis on our dismissal practices when we return to school in January,” wrote Senior Director of Elementary Education Erik Viste. “Please work to re-communicate your dismissal expectations with staff and students, return to our beginning-of-year student bus tags process, and emphasize monitoring and corrective feedback.”

The memo went out to all principals who are part of ASD so that they can share the information directly with parents at each of their schools.

District officials added that it offers its most sincere apology to the families and to the community, citing human error in both situations and adding that these incidents are opportunities for the district to do better.

Thursday was the first day of winter break for ASD students. Classes start up again on Jan. 9.