Greensboro, NC -- Guilford County Schools will begin testing a pilot program designed to increase students' safety at school bus stops.
The county will be one of two districts in the entire state implementing the policy recommended by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
After four students died in the state last school year from being hit by cars at their school bus stops, the state wanted to do add another precaution.
"The concern is students feel like when the bus comes to a stop, everyone comes to a stop, because that's what we're taught," explained Jeff Harris, the district's transportation director. "That's not always the case."
Harris says starting next week 100 bus drivers in the district will signal kids with a thumbs up when it's safe for them to cross the street and get on or off the bus.
"This step, adding the driver giving a hand signal, kind of adds an extra protection to students who maybe don't have an adult waiting on them," he said.
Part of the new policy includes a change to the operating system of the doors on the 100 school buses. No longer will the doors automatically open once the stop arm and lights go on, Harris explains, instead, the driver will have to push a button for that action to happen separately.
Louise Graham has a grandchild in the district and says she often see younger children running to and away from the school buses without looking out for other cars.
"I like the idea, with thumbs up so the kids know everything is clear," she said.
But Graham is also concerned about liability.
" I don't want it to be, if for some reason a car came passing by, even though [a bus driver] said it was OK and this car came out of nowhere that they would end up charging [the driver] that it was her fault."
Harris says the district has already heard from the state attorney general's office about the liability concern.
"With the opinion from the attorney general's office, by not doing something actually could put us in a more liable situation," he said.
The new policy will be tested primarily on buses in the High Point area where a student suffered minor injuries last school year at a bus stop.
It'll also be tested in northwest Guilford County.
The state found, in one day, 3,200 cars pass stopped school buses across North Carolina.
" It's a great policy. All the buses should have them ," said Tracy Chapman, a parent.
The district says there's a cost associated with making the policy change which is why it's limited to only 100 of the 605 school buses in the county.
Both Guilford and Chatham Counties will test out the policy for the next few months and regroup with the state about whether to expand it or find a new way to protect kids at the bus stop.