Durham charter school looking at cause of students' antifreeze burns
Posted February 10, 2015
Durham, N.C. — Administrators of a charter school in Durham say they are working to figure out what went wrong Monday afternoon when antifreeze spewed out into a school bus, injuring four students.
The children were riding the bus home when the radiator in the back of the bus overheated, causing a coolant line to burst and the hot liquid spray their legs.
Three of the students were being treated Tuesday afternoon at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill for injuries that include second-degree burns.
Yvette Muroe, chief executive officer of the K-6 Institute for the Development of Young Leaders, would not say what grades the children are in or provide their ages.
"We are waiting for the final findings. At that time, we will make a decision on what needs to happen to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said.
Muroe said the school contracts the single bus from a company that she refused to name and said that school officials have requested maintenance records from the company.
North Carolina Department of Transportation records show the bus belongs to Frontline Quality Transportation in Robeson County. Calls to the company were not returned Tuesday.
"The company has assured me they have regular maintenance on the bus," Muroe said. "I have met with mechanics who are still working to figure out what actually happened on the bus."
The school has used the bus for 18 months, she added, without any issues.
"Parents have been concerned, but they are also clear about our mission and vision and our commitment to educating children," Muroe said. "They know this has nothing to do with what we are here doing, which is providing an empowering, engaging, educational environment for our students."
According to Derek Graham, section chief of Transportation Services for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, there is no oversight for maintenance of charter school buses.
"They don't have to provide transportation. If they choose to do that, it's up to them to do that in a safe way," he said.
Graham says public schools have stringent state board policies, such as 30-day inspections, that charter schools don't have to follow.
Still, he said, there are some rules by which they must abide.
"Charter schools, like any other nonprofit private schools, have to have their vehicles inspected annually like you do on your personal car," Graham said.
Charter school bus drivers must also follow the same criteria as public school drivers.