Our district transports over 1,500 of our 2,000 students twice each day. The drivers crank up early each morning around 5:30 a.m. in an effort to have students at any one of our five schools at the appointed time. In the afternoon the process begins about 2:30 p.m. with drivers stopping at each school and then on to the respective houses.
Buses may have between 50 and 75 students on board. Drivers have the awesome task of driving down a multitude of roadways from blacktop to sand and gravel. Some never leave the blacktop in town, but make two trips as most of their loads get off at one or two stops. Others head out to the far reaches of the district to farm houses and more isolated communities to see children safely home.
Along with the tedious business of driving the highways in any given weather conditions, drivers must also keep discipline and order on their buses. We are very fortunate to have well mannered respectful students, but even on the best of days, as the old saying goes, boys and girls will be boys and girls, and disciplinary actions must occur. To keep this in perspective, think what it’s like to take your two or three children to Tupelo in a vehicle. I can just remember the, “Mommy, he hit me. Daddy, she is in my stuff. Tell Billy I’m gonna punch his nose if he pulls my pigtails again.” And of course that old classic, “He put that frog down my back.” Do you remember that frustration?
Ok,multiply that by 50, 60 or 70!
Please remember that when a bus is stopped to load or unload, a driver must watch the road for potential oncoming hazards, children who are unloading and crossing both lanes of traffic, and the students still on the bus. Most drivers may stop as many as 30 to 50 times from morning and evening. Note that any time the red flashers are on, all lanes of traffic are to stop, even on a four lane. When you get frustrated at this process, remember that there may be a 5-year-old child coming around in front of that bus that you can’t see. Be patient until you can successfully move around the bus at appropriate times. After all, they are carrying our most precious cargo.
When students jeopardize the safety of other students by their behavior on the bus, they are reported to the school principal and may be removed from the bus. Going to school to get an education is a right, but riding a bus to get there is a privilege. With gas prices steadily rising, it’s an economic privilege to the parents. By the way, most buses only get about three or four miles to the gallon of fuel because of all the stop-and-go they must perform. Fortunately, all our buses have diesel engines, air brakes and automatic transmissions. These are huge safety improvements for our students and drivers. And by the way, every driver that gets behind the wheel of a bus has a CDL license and is state certified for their job.
Because I regularly ride our buses with the students on their journeys, I can personally tell you what a great job these men and women perform for us. Whether it’s 100 -degrees in the summer, or 18-degrees in the winter; sunshine or rain the buses must roll. Sorta like the motto of the U.S. mail; “The mail must go through,” and the students must be transported!
I still remember the song we used to sing in kindergarten, “The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town.” As you see our buses around the town and district, think safety first and remember what a great service the drivers provide for our children and community!
Dr. Steve Coker is Superintendent of the Houston School District. He can be contacted at 456-3332.