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Edison children in Bus accident after parents got no action from CPS on complaints about Jewel Bus Company

Less than one year after the Chicago Board of Education voted to move the students of the Edison Regional Gifted Center from the Edison school building in Edison Park on Chicago's far northwest side to the Albany Park Middle School seven miles away, Edison parents were "saddened but not surprised" when a school bus carrying 21 of their children was involved in an accident on the morning of February 19, 2009.

Students on the way to the Edison Regional Gifted Center were delayed on the morning of February 19, 2009, when their bus collided with two cars on icy streets at the intersection of Leamington and Berteau on Chicago's northwest side. Two parents told Substance that the parents had been complaining to the Chicago Board of Education's Department of Transportation about problems with Jewel Bus Company since the busing of their children to the school's new location began in September 2008 following the Board's February 2008 vote to move the school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.None of the 21 children on the Jewel Bus Company bus were injured when the bus skidded into two cars at the intersection of Berteau and Leamington streets at approximately 7:15 a.m. The driver of one of the two cars involved in the accident with the bus was injured in the crash.

"There were no injuries to any of the children on the bus," Field Officer Johnson of the Chicago Fire Department told Substance.

The driver of one of the cars that was damaged in the collisions, Marcy Stowe, told Substance that parents have tried to complain about problems with the Jewel Bus Company since the children began being bused to the new Edison site in September.

"We've reported at least three problems prior to today," Stowe said. Ironically, Stowe was driving her car at the intersection where the accident took place while her daughter, an Edison student, was on the bus that hit the parent's automobile. A second automobile was also damaged, but the driver reported no injuries.

Icy streets dangerous because of Mayor Daley's "No salting" edict

One of the two cars hit by the Jewel Bus Company bus at the intersection of Leamington and Berteau was severely damaged in the collision. The driver of the vehicle, Marcy Stowe, was also injured. Stowe's daughter, a student at Edison, was on the bus that hit the car. A second car was also damaged in the accident, but no one in that vehicle reported injuries. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Neighbors at the intersection noted that the side streets in the community have been dangerous all winter because of a City of Chicago policy promulgated by Mayor Richard M. Daley which forbids local Streets and Sanitation crews from salting side streets at such times. An icy storm on the night of February 18 combined with a 30 degree drop in temperatures to make all of the side streets in the community dangerous, neighbors said.

The problem has become particularly acute all winter when icing overnight results in extremely slippery side streets at the beginning of the early morning rush hour. The danger to children who go to school or ride school buses has been noted before. Most Chicago public schools are located on side streets where the most dangerous icing has been a problem throughout the winter of 2008-2009. Children who ride school buses, which also must navigate the same side streets, and the bus crews, have also been placed in greater danger by the city's salting and de-icing policies, according to several sources familiar with the growth of the problem during recent months.

Complaints about Jewel bus company unheeded, parents say

Two parents of children who were on the bus involved the the February 19 collisions both told Substance that problems with the bus company began shortly after the new school year began. "There have been problems regularly," said one parent who requested anonymity because she works for the City of Chicago. "We called a person named Perkins in the CPS Department of Transportation. Nothing was done, and now we've been told to contact someone else."

The parent noted that parents were disappointed last year when their protests against the relocation of the school were ignored by CPS. "Virtually every parent from Edison was against the move," the parent told Substance. "But we accepted what was. The trouble lately hasn't been with the new facility, but with the bus company. And it's frustrating that this was predictable and that we had tried to warn CPS about problems with this company."

Two other parents of children on the bus involved in the accident agreed.

The bus involved in the accident, from Jewel Bus Company, picks up students going to Edison Regional Gifted Center every morning at the Portage Park Elementary School, at 5330 W. Berteau. The bus then heads east on Berteau towards the Albany Park Middle School, at 4929 N. Sawyer, where the Edison center has been located in the same building with Albany Park Middle School since September 2008.

The Jewel Company school bus sits in the intersection of Berteau and Leamington on Chicago's northwest side after striking two automobiles in an accident on the morning of February 19, 2009. The bus had apparently lost control on the ice at the intersection after going across a speed bump in the street just east of where the accident took place. None of the side streets in the neighborhood had been salted overnight after the ice and snow storm on the night of February 18 because of orders from Mayor Richard M. Daley that salt trucks not do side streets. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The bus apparently skidded after going over a speed hump east of Laramie Ave. on Berteau and then was unable to stop at the intersection of Leamington, where there is a stop sign. It hit two automobiles before coming to a stop in the middle of the intersection, unable to move because the front bumper had been jammed against one of the front tires. One of the automobiles struck by the bus careened over the curb and came to a stop on the parkway in front of 5132 W. Berteau. The accident took place in front of the Substance office.

Chicago police and firefighters who arrived almost immediately on the scene examined the children and told Substance that none of the children on the bus had been injured. The police said that they left the children on the stopped bus because of the cold. "There is no reason to make them stand outside in this weather," a police officer said, noting that once it was determined that the children were safe and uninjured and that the bus posed no further danger to them, the warmest place for the children was in the bus.

Earlier complaints in community regarding "No salting" policy

Earlier in the winter, numerous complaints were lodged with the city and with the two aldermen who represent residents of the communities.

On one occasion, this reporter contacted the office of Alderman Tom Allen after witnessing a near-accident in the shadows north of Portage Park school, on Hutchinson Ave. The streets had not been salted, and the street north of the school, the highest building in the area, was particularly dangerous because of ice. Because of the height of the school building, the street behind the building remained in shadow all day, resulting in black ice.

An inspection of other schools in the community revealed the same problem. A spokewoman for Alderman Allen said that the crews from the Department of Streets and Sanitation in the ward were forbidden from salting the side streets.

On February 19, salting crews appeared on the streets near the accident site within an hour, and within two hours every side street within five blocks of the accident had been salted. Other communities on the city's northwest side had not received the salting by late morning, leaving the appearance that the salting was the result of the school bus accident at Berteau and Leamington.

Board to investigate

Spokesmen for the Chicago Board of Education declined to comment when reached by Substance shortly after the accident.

A spokesman said that the Board would have no comment until it had learned officially of the accident and investigated the allegations that complaints against the bus company had been ignored.

In early afternoon, Board of Education spokesman Malon Edwards issued the following statement by e-mail on behalf of Chicago Public Schools:

"A school bus containing 20 Chicago Public Schools students traveling to Edison Regional Gifted Center was involved in a collision this morning. Police Major Accidents is investigating and no injuries were reported in the collision, which involved a bus from Jewel Bus Co. on Edison Route No 2 and two other vehicles at about 7:15 a.m.

"The bus was traveling on the 5100 block of West Berteau Avenue when it rear-ended a car that had previously struck a third vehicle which had come to a sudden stop.

The above photograph, taken facing towards the southeast from a higher angle, shows the bus across the intersection of Berteau and Leamington, with two of the damaged automobiles. The Volkswagon (foreground) is the one shown from the rear in the above photograph. The other vehicle was damaged in the rear (bumper and elsewhere). A third automobile was also damaged but is not in the photograph. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. "Jewel Bus Company is providing transportation service to Edison Regional Gifted Center on 14 bus routes. As we investigate this incident, we will continue to work with school administration and the vendor to resolve any outstanding issues regarding safety related to student transportation." 

Full story published at substancenews.net February 19, and February 20, 2009. Final edited version effective 2:00 p.m. February 22, 2009.

Copyright 2009 Substance, Inc. all rights reserved. For permission to reprint this story and its accompanying illustrations and photographs, please contact Substance, Inc. by e-mail (Csubstance@aol.com) or by phone at 773-725-7502. Permission rates are reasonable, but required. Please cite as "Copyright 2009 Substance News Service, www.substancenews.net" all rights reserved.



Comments:

February 20, 2009 at 4:40 PM

By: Veronica Rios

concerned parent of route 2

We, the parents of the children on route 2, have exasperatingly tried to resolve the busing issue with and CPS to no avail. Since September, we have been dealing with unsafe and late drivers. Jewel Lockhardt, owner of the bus company and Elizabeth Perkins, head of CPS transportation have been notified numerous times. They have both come up emptyhanded in regards to our valid and numerous complaints: habitually late drivers unfamiliar with the route, unsafe drivers zooming down residential streets, and old dilapidated buses with no heat. They are transporting children, not luggage....and they have the audacity to do nothing about it except tell us more lies and more excuses.Huberman, are you going to do something about it? Or does someone else have to get hurt?

February 20, 2009 at 9:44 PM

By: Michael Stowe

CPS Slander

"The bus was traveling on the 5100 block of West Berteau Avenue when it rear-ended a car that had previously struck a third vehicle which had come to a sudden stop."

I hope Malone Edwards simply misspoke and said "previously" when he meant "subsequently" and it not simply lying or repeating the lies of others.

Nearly any idiot can tell from the picture of the car that it was the rear impact that shoved it into the parked car. Unless we're supposed to think it backed into the bus?

February 20, 2009 at 10:10 PM

By: John Fulmer

No injuries?

I'm wondering why this article is taking pains not to mention that the driver of the vehicle, Marcy Stowe *WAS* injured, with severe injuries to the face and neck? It mentions that there was an injury (although the official statement says there was none, which is either ignorance or pure fabrication), but it never mentions who was injured, or to what extent.

February 20, 2009 at 10:25 PM

By: Alan Adorable

IT'S ALL OVER

FOR THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

February 20, 2009 at 10:26 PM

By: Bart Fargo

WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN???

This is exactly why gifted children should be transported to school on the backs of Luck Dragons!

February 20, 2009 at 10:28 PM

By: Ambient Cookbook

You should have had one of the Kids write this story

Because they would have probably done a better job.

February 20, 2009 at 10:34 PM

By: Rob Schultz

Badly written or deliberately misleading?

Let's see if I've got this straight:1) The driver of one of the two cars was injured. 2) Ms. Stowe was the driver of one of the two cars 3) Ms. Stowe was driving a car at the intersection where the accident took place 4) Ms. Stowe's daughter was on the bus that hit a parent's car. Does this site's relationship to the school system require that every article contain some form of logic puzzle to encourage the reader to learn something, or is Mr. Schmidt just being paid by the word? Why on Earth take such an elaborate and circuitous route to avoid clear and concise writing, unless some effort is being made to disguise the fact that someone was hurt (and badly, according to another commenter)? Why not use some of that article length to reconcile the public statement that no injuries were reported? Was the sheer length of the article such that Mr. Schmidt simply forgot what had gone before? And it may be a smaller point, but it's still a sticking one: What's supposed to be "ironic" about the collision or the fact that Ms. Stowe was involved? Perhaps if she previously campaigning to reduce the safety of the bussing system, or if she had just finished saying "at least I'll never be involved in a collision with that school bus," it might be ironic. Facts such as they're presented, however, suggest Mr. Schmidt may have heard the word elsewhere and simply taken a guess at its meaning.

February 20, 2009 at 10:36 PM

By: Jeff Dvorak

Defending public schools?

Are Chicago's public schools so maligned that they need a website / publication to defend them? If so perhaps some Baldridge - style examination of programs and procedures is in order.

Also, the driver of the car was badly hurt. Three cheers for accuracy!

February 21, 2009 at 1:42 AM

By: Ben Anison

Spooky!

I wonder if the Stowe family are ghosts. If that's not the case, why doesn't Malone Edwards think they exist? He left the mom out of his statement ("no injuries were reported") and he left the kid out of his statement ("a school bus containing 20...students"). Either he's a crazy person or the reporter was making up people. Super weird.

February 21, 2009 at 3:33 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Reporter

I'm off this story after a couple of follow up phone calls. By next Thursday morning, there will be a hundred new stories from Chicago's public schools.

But I would not denigrate the work of the CPS Office of Communications -- or Malon Edwards. The people whose job it is to provide the public with information from any large bureaucratic system (Chicago Police; Chicago Public Schools; Pentagon) are always at the mercy of the systems that siphon the information as it goes in their direction.

The fact was, there were 21 children on that bus when the collision (collisions? I wasn't there to see the billiard effect, but only the four damaged vehicles afterward) took place, but 20 children on the bus when it arrived, about an hour after the collision, at Albany Park School/Edison Regional Gifted Center.

One of the questions that arises in stories like this is how many adults should be on a school bus, no matter how long or short the route. Who is responsible for the children when they are in the hands of a contractor (the bus company) who may have gotten the contract by being the lowest bidder?

I'm not going to do another bus story for another winter or two. I reported, two winters ago this month, that Alltown Bus Company was not warming up its buses before they went out on routes in zero degree weather. Another freezing day, although those photographs were taken before dawn out on the South Side when the Alltown buses were pulling out and along the route of one of those buses between the yard and Christopher school (wheelchairs and all).

School bus companies and those who work for them are among the most important people who deal with our children everywhere (not just in Chicago). One of my sons rides an Alltown bus to and from school every day, and we have had the same driver and the same amazingly good service for three straight years. In all kinds of weather.

Where a company is not providing that level of professionalism in its staff and that level of service, the problem can be identified and corrected. Where the February 19 problem began (contract? clout? messup?) is for others to answer.

Malon Edwards was operating professionally based on the information he had from CPS sources. I was basing my story on what I reported at the scene, naming some sources and honoring the "anonymous" for other(s). I did not try to go on the bus and count the kids myself, because there were at least three adults doing that. I personally think we both did the job fairly well given that reality is always more challenging than what can be quarterbacked the next day.

February 21, 2009 at 10:34 AM

By: xian barrett

Reporting

Thank you for getting this story up so quickly and efficiently. I think it does a great job reporting the facts--facts that demonstrate that the Board has been negligent in its treatment of the kids of Edison. As for the conflicting reports from the Board and the on-scene reporter, that's an important part of the story. It doesn't mean that no one was hurt. It merely means that the Board was unaware of the injury that Mr. Schmidt clearly reported in paragraph 4.

April 2, 2009 at 3:20 PM

By: Jason Evans

citizen

I have nothing to add about this traffic incident, but Jewel's Bus Company operates a few buses for a school near my home. They arrive at about 2 PM every school day, then sit idling in the street for 45 minutes or so until school lets out. 45 minutes of idling! I am in the process of contacting both the bus company and CPS, but here is another drawback of using subcontractors for these kinds of services; I'm sure the added fuel costs are passed along to CPS.

April 2, 2009 at 7:25 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher

To: Rob

It appears that you were reading a different article then I was. George was very clear on the distinguish between the parent and the child who was riding the bus. He also clarified that while CPS was insisting that no one was injured that there were indeed people hurt. I read the article and then read the comments. After reading your comment, I went back and reread and definitely disagree with your perception.

George, I am glad that you are able to keep us informed of what's going on because CPS isn't going to do it.

April 18, 2009 at 12:39 PM

By: kesia

stoys

nice storys

April 20, 2009 at 10:37 PM

By: FYI

update

Mrs. Perkins from CPS told me last year that it would take 25 minutes to go from the Far NWside to APMA. She "tested out" the commute and approved it.

Well, I hope she knows it takes longer than 25 minutes now. And it is not such a safe and fun ride. oh, the puppets in cps.

April 21, 2009 at 3:23 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Edison fan, critic of CPS idiocy

Distances and times on the "Northwest Side," as everyone knows, change with the times of day, the economy, and the seasons. But a dozen real-time tests of that "25 minutes" theory would prove it absolutely wrong for at least half the iterations. Therefore, this being Chicago, the question is "Who's the clout?" behind both Perkins and Jewel? It's been four months since Transportation was proved to have endangered the children on that bus route, and I photographed one of the results. As usual, CPS is covering up for (a) someone and (b) something because (c) incompetence with enough clout can get away with anything in this town.

I don't have the time for this story right now (sorry), but someone should be able to learn more, fast.

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