A contract driver for Prince George's County public schools was arrested and charged with drunken driving yesterday as he was taking children home from Green Valley Alternative Middle, a school for at-risk students, police said.

There was no accident and none of the children was hurt, police said.

The driver, Robert Bardelmand, 49, failed a field sobriety test and then registered over the legal limit in a Breathalyzer test, said Fairmount Heights Police Chief David Rice.

Rice, who was on the scene, said that there was a strong odor of alcohol coming from Bardelmand and that officers had found a half-empty pint of vodka on the bus.

The legal blood alcohol level is 0.08. Bardelmand's score was 0.20, Rice said.

"He was highly intoxicated," the chief said.

The incident began at 5 p.m. at Foote Street and 62nd Avenue in Fairmount Heights. One of four children left on the bus spit out the window onto a person below, and the person became upset with the student, Rice said.

In an effort to defend his passenger, Bardelmand got out of the bus and began arguing with the person who had been spat upon, according to Rice.

A Fairmount police officer, who had been passing by and stopped to see if there was a problem, began to speak with Bardelmand and noticed a strong smell of alcohol. He called the chief, who came to the scene.

Bardelmand, who lives in Edgewater, was given a field sobriety test and then arrested. A county school bus took the remaining children home, the chief said.

Bardelmand told police he has been employed for nine months by Lowergan's Charter Service of Millersville. Company executives could not be reached last night.

The county school system has done business with Lowergan's for years and has not had this type of problem before, said John White, a spokesman for the Prince George's school system.

"When it comes to the safety of the kids, we expect the same standards to be held with contractors and our own employees," White said. "We will be investigating."

White also said a county bus would take over the Green Valley bus route starting today.