Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Bus Driver's Bible

No matter how well we take care of the respective bodies, whether they’re humans or school buses, frames and other integral parts wear out and the time comes to put the structure out to pasture, or even further.

Such a situation faced BPS this year as the transmission in one of the school buses began to grind its gears and the kids on board inquired with choruses of “What’s that noise.” (Pretend you’re a bus driver and explain transmissions to a bus-full of grade school children.)

Then, too, the suspension on the bus was about shot; the kids liked that and didn’t care that they bounced around on country roads, so they didn’t ask why. The bus wasn’t insulated, so many varieties of noises caromed throughout the interior, and that says nothing about windows that wouldn’t stay all the way up …you get the cold snapshot.

Besides, the vehicle was over ten years old, and studies show when school buses get that old it costs the district bundles and gobs of money, just to keep them running.

So, a 2014 Blue Bird 47 passenger school bus replaced the old bus and now roams the highways and byways of Bayard-land.  

Besides no “whatsat” mechanical grunts and groans, the bus seats more passengers, has higher back seats, which studies show are safer for kids sitting in them, and has two attached stop signs, instead of just one.

It’s a needed replacement.

On the same level of importance as a sound bus is a sound bus driver. Along with the bus, that person has contact with the same group of kids two times a day, five days a week, to say nothing about special events.

According to school bus driver Bill Ferrero, “School bus drivers must have a CDL license, a passenger bus and air brake endorsement, have passed an air brake test and had an 11 hour training class.

That’s all impressive, but includes nothing about dealing daily, in his case, with 27 energetic grade-schoolers on a school bus somewhere on the winding, rutty, roads of Morrill County, hopefully in the Bayard School District.

He needs a whole bunch more than a mechanics manual.

Ferrero said that along with a young student’s exuberance and positive attitude, drivers must deal with them after they’ve had bad mornings, a traumatic day at school, or are simply responding to life as youngsters do, by letting it all hang out.

He emphasized. “Even though I have to deal with unacceptable behavior while keeping both hands and eyes on the road, for teaching purposes I try to discipline with an explanation of why the offending kids shouldn’t do thus and so.

“Every day is a learning experience for them and me.”

He remembers that whenever he drives a school bus, in his mind and hands, he holds the lives of the children on board, both mentally and physically.

“School is sometimes a crisis situation and I must deal with the kids with that in mind. I become their friend and confident. Some days they want to talk about something specific and some days they just want to talk.”

He’s learned to listen.

“When they feel safe enough with me to just want to talk, I feel I’ve met the challenge.”

He thinks the challenge for control is to keep children focused, and the best way to do that is playing games.

“We do tongue twisters, tell jokes, stories, and sing songs. Yankee Doodle is a favorite and with each verse we sing faster and faster.

“The time of Kindergarten through second grade is special. They like to sit up front and sing their hearts out and ask questions. Once, a child asked me if I stayed on the bus all day.”

He’s found out kids love to learn and he teaches things like what’s Valentine’s Day about. He tells them it’s not about candy; it’s about love. That gives him a chance to talk about what love really is.

“I don’t have to rehearse or plan anything, I just need to stay aware of what’s going on and some opportunity will present itself. Regardless, I’ve learned to love and respect the kids.

“I’d also like this opportunity to thank to Ron Dudden, the schools transportation director. He’s in charge of bus maintenance. He changes the oil, keeps the buses clean, and does minor repairs, like making sure all the lights are functional. As a bus driver I appreciate his work.

It takes more than one sound chassis’ to get kids to school 5 days a week, for nine months.



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