Northampton students return to class as police step up bus safety patrols

Northampton students return to class as police step up bus safety patrols
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 1:44 PM EDT
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NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Thursday was the first day of school for grades 1 through 12 at Northampton Public Schools and that meant police were once again doing their school bus patrols.

“It’s wonderful. We have a tremendous community here and it’s wonderful to have everyone back,” said Bridge Street School Tiered Support Specialist Nora Dejasu.

Excitement showed as another academic year is officially underway for most students at Northampton Public Schools. There are the continuing concerns, though, about drivers passing school buses illegally. Kelsey Flynn, a mother of two kids at Bridge Street School, said safety is always number one.

“We’ve had a crossing guard got hit…three years ago because we’ve got people who are in a hurry and don’t realize that we’ve got children walking across the street trying to get to the big structure that’s red and brick in front of them,” Flynn noted.

Northampton Police once again began their bus patrols this first day of school, making sure drivers are not passing school buses when they stop to pick up students.

Western Mass News caught up with Northampton Police Capt. Victor Caputo, who shared good news for the morning.

“This morning, we had no violations and I believe we had four or five patrols out following school buses,” Caputo noted.

While there were only two citations last year, Northampton Police stress the penalties are for those illegal passes. First-time offenders have to pay a $255 fine, second-timers will receive a fine of over $1,000 and a six-month license suspension, and third-time offenders will face a fine of more than $2,000 and have their license suspended for a whole year.

“If the school bus’s emergency equipment is activated, you can’t pass the school bus. Even a police cruiser cannot pass the school bus,” Caputo said.

Dejasu told us impatient drivers would try to pass school buses several times a week. She is thankful for the officers’ work to keep kids safe.

“We absolutely appreciate any and all help that the police department assists us with at the end of school, for kids dismissal [and] in the morning,” Dejasu said.

With her oldest child taking a bus for the first-time next year, Flynn asked everyone to be mindful on the road.

“Nothing is more important than our lives and the lives of the other people on the road with us, so if we can all just get there in one piece and safely, then I think that’s a success,” Flynn added.

Northampton Police will conduct the patrols intermittently for the rest of the school year with the next round occurring as soon as next week.

Drivers who are not at least 100 feet away from an operating school bus could also face a $40 fine.