In the News…

In the news….

A man in Ohio is pitching in and helping children in his neighborhood. He noticed that the children were waiting for the bus while cars were rushing by. He decided to step up and take action.

Since the bus stops in front of his house, he built a little stop for them. It has a bench and even some landscaping. This setup has had great reviews by the people in his neighborhood.

“People who live in the community should do things for the children” says Collier.

We want to recognize this man and use him as an example. He went beyond what was asked of him. He did something for the children and their safety.

What can you do for the children in your neighborhood?

Residents can take turns watching the kids at the stop. It is easy and it will reduce any risks that could be present.

Thank you.

Evacs and Seating Charts

Bus Evacuations

Evacuations at the High School start off by students loading the buses.  Drivers explain the evacuation process, and the students proceed to evacuate using the rear emergency door of the bus.

The process is something of a joke for High School students.  They don’t understand the potential for dangerous events on a school bus.  Though they may not take the evacuation entirely seriously, they are getting practical experience getting off the bus quickly and safely.  They also have the opportunity to witness the operation of a two-way radio and the location of the belt cutter.

While students see the drill as an escape from the daily routine, for bus drivers it’s something else entirely; an opportunity to practice a simple life-preserving process with students.

We’re glad when districts perform the drills regularly.

Seating Assignments
Behind-the-scenes, drivers work hard to complete Seating Charts.

Some school districts requires assigned seating on buses.

Assigned seats:

  • mean every student has a place to go, so loading occurs more efficiently than when they have to search for seats;
  • keep students separated by age and experience so the youngest students are not socialized with the older students;
  • help keep the bus in better repair; when a student is “responsible” for a seat, s/he tends not to tear tape or poke holes in the seat;
  • separate students who have trouble sitting near each other;
  • assist the bus driver with student recognition and route planning.

Some basic “rules” for seating charts:  For example younger students must be seating in the front of the bus (both Kindergarten and sixth grade students qualify as “younger” students).  Middle School students must sit forward of seat 16; High School students must seat behind seat 16.  In certain circumstances, students are exempt from being assigned a seat.  One such circumstance occurs when a large number of students is on the bus less than ten minutes (students who live in large housing developments near the School qualify).

As always, we encourage parents to call when there is an issue with a seating arrangement to make changes to accommodate requests and help students have a better ride to and from school.

Safe Driving!

Bus Seat Damage

Bus Seat Damage is an on-going problem.
Why are students making holes in the seat covers?
Why are they making the holes bigger and bigger?
Why are they taking the foam padding out of the seats?
We need a cure for this problem! It’s expensive and potentially dangerous. If there’s no padding in a seat designed to cushion students in an accident, how can they be cushioned?
I do not believe the damage is done by students with evil intentions. But the students inflicting the damage are clearly not demonstrating respect for the bus either.
I think parents can help us with our bus seat damage problem.
Talk to students about their bus. Remind them that the bus is designed to be a safe environment; it’s actually the second safest form of ground transportation (second only to elevators, incidentally). Ask them to respect the bus.
I’ve heard some interesting parent perspectives when I’ve sent bills for bus seat damage to students. Keep this one fact in mind: students do not have the right to damage bus seats if transportation is funded by tax dollars!
Safe Driving!

Preliminary Route Schedules

For several years, we collected data from parents by sending home a form containing student information and asking parents to return the form. We made the necessary changes to our database and then sent postcards to each family in mid-August at considerable cost. And we’ve discovered that by the time school starts the information on the postcards is usually obsolete.

We since added two additional notifications, one at Open House and another on the first day of school. Why twice? Between Open House and the start of school we entered more than 2,700 changes to the database. Some of those changes were for custody reasons, others for daycare changes, and still others because families moved to new addresses.

The last week of school we sent home the next year’s preliminary route information with next year’s 1-12 students. (Kindergarten students will receive a letter when they get their introductory letters from their teachers.) We hope the new schedule will remind parents to contact us to make changes for the reasons noted in the last paragraph. We also hope to hear from the parents who have students moving to a new school and are now walkers at that school. We think it will be nice for them to get the heads-up about that significant change sooner rather than later, and it’s easier for us to manage the phone calls when it’s not quite as busy as it gets in August.

Because bus numbers may change (for capacity reasons) and time schedules change (students may be added or deleted or need to be in a different location, etc.), we prepare and disperse actual route information at each year’s Open Houses. Students in grades K-5 will find letters in their classrooms. Students in the Middle School will find letters with their room advisors. High School students will be able to check their information in alphabetical lists during Open House.

If we don’t solve the problem and need to make significant changes to routes between Open House and the start of school, we will prepare additional letters and get them to teachers to disperse on the first day. We hope our new system precludes the need to send additional letters on the first day.

We do like to receive changes in some sort of written form.

Safe Driving!

In the News… 6-Year Old Killed By Bus

Yesterday I was thinking about student safety outside the bus.

Not long after publishing my own thoughts about student safety and the high percentage of students hurt in the Spring, we learned a young boy died. He was hit by his own bus, and his bus driver, according to news reports, is devastated. I imagine the entire community is devastated.

So am I.

We teach new drivers about student safety outside the school bus just like we teach students how to be safe by using a booklet, “The Moment of Truth: School Bus Loading and Unloading Safety.”

There are fourteen practices and suggestions in the booklet:

1. Establish and enforce safe crossing procedures at each and every stop with each and every student. Key point: if a student fails to follow safe crossing procedures, teach them how.

2. Count students. Key point: if a driver loses count or gets confused about how many students were present, get up and look for them.

3. Assume traffic will fail to follow rules, laws, and best practices. Key point: a defensive attitude and posture keeps the most people safe and healthy.

4. Remain focused on those students outside the bus. Key point: learn to count to ten before looking into the rearview mirror when motion catches your attention; the students inside the bus are safe.

5. Pay attention to the statistics. Key point: again, statistics report important things; statistics do not predict. * 25% of student fatalities occur when a student is hit by his or her own bus * young children are most vulnerable, but middle school students come a close second * pm routes in the Spring are most dangerous.

6. Drive a bus only after the mirrors are properly adjusted. Key point: mirror adjustment requires expert help; get it.

7. Maintain safe schedules. Key point: avoid rushing.

8. Understand safety. Key point: avoid desensitization caused by continuous performance of routine activities.

9. Use safety equipment correctly. Key point: if the bus is equipped with a crossing gate, DO NOT RELAX!! Too often students circle round the gate and walk toward the bus instead of continuing in a straight line.

10. Teach students to be safe. Key point: if students don’t take their own safety seriously, it’s more challenging to keep them safe.

11. Expect students to engage in unexpected and confusing behavior. Key point: drivers need to be familiar with each student’s habits and watch for changes in behavior.

12. Practice middle loading when assigning seats. Key point: the safest seats (the ones with the most cushion) are in the middle of the bus.

13. Listen to what students say. Key point: they have a gut instinct too, and sometimes adults don’t take them seriously.

14. Education begins with drivers and students, but doesn’t stop there. Key point: educate the public. We add one practice to safe crossing practices: we teach and use the “Thumbs UP for safety” signal. I’d like to see all bus drivers and all students using it. Practical? No. I cannot imagine our seniors giving the driver this hand signal. We’ll keep trying. Maybe if we keep working on it, our students will all be participating in the next decade.

Safe Driving…

On Crossing the Street

Statistics do not predict. They report. That’s an important difference.

That said, Spring school bus fatality statistics alarm me every year. The most common time for a school bus to hit one of its riders is in the Spring.
There are all kinds of theories about why Spring is so dangerous.
While it’s important for us to know and appreciate those theories, we believe our energy is best spent teaching drivers and students to be safe outside the school bus.
Key to safe crossing? Visual contact between a bus driver and a student!
We teach our students to watch for the driver’s “Thumbs UP.” We teach our students to return the “Thumbs UP” so the driver knows the student is an active participant in his or her own safety.
During school bus safety training, we tell our kids the “Safe Crossing with Safety Sam” story. The story’s a little bit lame and the pictures are very dated. We keep using it because it accomplishes our goal.

Here’s the story:

We desperately desire new artwork.
Safe Driving!

Kindergarten, Here We Come!

This week kicks off Kindergarten registration, also known as Kindergarten Round-Up. This is the first of a two-part series. In August, Kindergarten Count-Down (part two in the series) takes place and includes the Kindergarten students. Part one is for parents.

There is so much for parents to learn when it’s time for their child to start school, and they are often filled with equal parts trepidation and excitement. I know I was!

One of the great unknowns for Kindergarten parents – especially first timers – is how their student will manage their first experience with mass transportation.
There are two keys to a positive transportation experience.
The first is that parents are positive, talking to their children about how much fun it will be to ride the bus, reading colorful and happy bus stories (we never recommend Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus), and avoiding burdening their children with worries or fears.
For the adults involved in transportation, the key is that all parties have adequate information. We need to know names and addresses and phone numbers for a number of people. We also need to know the child’s schedule in great detail.
Our first responsibility is to collect information from parents using the Transportation Registration Form.

Once we’ve received responses for each student, we being a “file” for each student, paying great attention to pick-up and drop-off locations. For many students that location is the same. For a growing number of students, two or three addresses are involved.

We plot each student on a master map that we will use until just after school starts. It’s an electronic map with lots of hand-written notes and bright colors symbolizing many transportation-related things (red for home, green for dc, blue for boy, pink for girl, etc.).
We study the geographic clusters of students and find ways to efficiently map routes so buses aren’t driving in circles or adding excess miles. We consider:
  • How can we best fill a bus on the way home from school and then fill it again on the way back to school?
  • How can we make sure our youngest students are not getting on or off the bus in the dark?
  • How can we plot the most efficient routes while keeping students on the right side of the bus?
  • How can we meet the most parental requests?
  • How can we plan for address changes?

The 2009-2010 routes looked like this:

East to West we travel 23.02 miles. North to South, we travel 9.57 miles. That’s a lot of distance to accommodate in a relatively short amount of time.

Students actually appear where you see brackets. (If there is no student where you see a color indicating a route, it’s because the student only rides certain days. When those “missing” students don’t ride, we don’t travel those roads.)

We like to assign our furthest students to the AM class. If we assign them PM, they may not get off the bus until after dark during winter months.

Some students in a neighborhood will be assigned to AM, while others (maybe even on the same street) will be assigned PM.

The yellow route is “PM” and the green route is AM. Note that students living just a few houses apart are in separate classes.

That occurs because students need to fit on the regular early AM and late PM K-5 routes too. If one neighborhood were all AM, the early morning route carrying K-5 would be very full and the same bus on PM route would have empty seats.

Have more questions? Give us a call. We get excited about routing, transportation geeks that we are!

Safe Driving!

Thumbs up! School Bus Safety Training!

Over a span of a couple weeks, we conducted school bus safety training with our students.
The secondary students will board buses en masse. Drivers will instruct them about emergency exits, two-way radio use, and other safety points. They will then have the opportunity to practice evacuating from the rear of the bus as demonstrated by these drivers.
Secondary students must then take and pass a school bus safety test. We repeat the drill in the spring as a reminder to the students.
The elementary training is a little more hands-on-style training.
Our elementary students first have classroom instruction. The instructor shows a very brief video and discusses school bus safety with the students.
Bus Safety Basics for Elementary Students in our District.
Each class of students later boards a bus to hear the same school bus safety message they heard first in the classroom. We use the same visual aids as the ones in the video. Before returning to school, the students practice evacuating through the rear emergency exit. After evacuating, they line up and practice crossing in front of the bus, watching the “driver” for the thumbs-up signal.
Elementary students in Minnesota must take and pass a school bus safety exam as well.
Our most important message to students is “Thumbs Up for Safety”.  It’s never okay to approach the bus or cross the road until the driver signals. If the driver doesn’t signal, students are instructed to wait. “If the driver is too busy or distracted by something inside the bus to give the signal”, we tell them, “he or she is too distracted to be watching traffic. WAIT!”
Some of our drivers are now teaching their students to return the thumbs-up signal. I like that idea. It makes these little people partners in their own safe transportation.
Safe Driving!