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Honoring Justin: Janesville Group Gets Approval to Add Sensors to Fleet of School Buses
By Jill Kasparie, Reporter
JANESVILLE, Iowa - After two years of work, every school bus in Janesville will soon be equipped with new technology.
"It's exciting to be able to get them on our buses and start the process," said Justin's Father Ryan Bradfield.
The Janesville Consolidated School District will install sensors on its buses that will detect children in hard-to-see places. The hope is to prevent the unthinkable from happening again.
In 2011, a Janesville school bus struck and killed a sixth grade student. Investigators said 11-year-old Justin Bradfield got off the bus, but then ran back to pick something up. The driver never saw him, and the bus hit the boy when it started moving forward.
Shortly after Justin's death, a group formed called the Smile BIG Foundation.
After a lot of work, they're celebrating.
"We are tickled to death to be able to have this day to happen," said Smile Big Foundation Member & 4th Grade Janesville Teacher Mary Dove.
After working with the Department of Education and holding a pilot study that included other school districts, they finally got the approval needed to get child sensors for the district's six buses.
"Hopefully it means safer bus routes, safer buses. Parents will be a little bit more at ease with their kids getting on and off the buses," said Janesville Consolidated School District Superintendent BJ Meaney.
For one man, however, getting to this point means a little more. He's Justin's father.
"You can tell he's up there rooting, just go, go, go," said Ryan Bradfield.
Bradfield wears a bracelet with his son's name every day. Tuesday would have been Justin's 14th birthday.
"Justin would think it's pretty cool," Bradfield said.
The sensor system has internal and external alarms to aid the bus driver.
"If you have to look back ... and if you don't see everybody then you start looking and usually a buzzer will go off, you know, if they are anywhere around the bus," said Janesville Bus Driver Allen Durnil.
Now, the Foundation hopes other districts will follow their lead, adding sensors to prevent other tragedies.
For now, though, they're all smiles about their achievement.
"It's a really good feeling," Bradfield said.
One school bus already has the sensors because it was part of the pilot study. The district plans to install the remaining five this summer. The Smile Big Foundation raised all the money for the sensors, which cost about $2,500 per bus.