First day stressful for bus drivers, too

Published 11:59 pm Friday, August 7, 2009

While the first day of school is always an exciting time for teachers, students and parents, there’s another group that also deals with the hustle and bustle on that day — bus drivers.

Andalusia City Schools transportation director Bob Harry said the first day of school Monday is often a day where bus drivers have to “work out some of the kinks.”

“I just ask our parents to be patient with us these first few days,” he said. “Parents need to understand that we’re probably not going to be right on schedule that first day, because there are so many kids who are going to be riding the bus for the first time and there will be some delays.”

During the summer, the ACS publicized its changes to the city’s bus routes — the first major changes to the routes since the bus system’s inception five years ago. In order to save money on fuel and maintenance costs, the system’s buses will now make fewer stops.

The list of updated bus stops can also be found online by visiting, and clicking on the “Transportation Home” link.

Harry said parents should follow a few common sense tips to ensure the first day of riding the bus is a smooth day for all students.

“One of the biggest problems that we have is that a lot of parents take their kids to school on the first day, but then have them ride the bus home at the end of the day,” he said. “I can understand that, of course, parents want to be able to hug their kid goodbye. The problem is, at the end of the day, the kid gets on a bus and that might be the first time the driver’s ever seen that child.

“It’s very important, especially with the kindergartners, that your student knows how to tell the driver their first name — their real first name, not a pet name. I know it seems like a little thing, but that helps us out a lot in case kids get confused about which bus they’re supposed to be on.”

One other way parents can help the bus system provide fluid service is to make sure the student has a plan for where to go after being dropped off after school.

“There have been many times when a driver’s been left with a child and they don’t know what to do, because there’s nobody there at the stop,” Harry said. “I understand that a lot of parents work and can’t pick up their kid at the stop, but be sure to have a plan for where your child should go instead, and be sure the child knows the plan as well.”

Harry added that a safety feature is that all of the system’s nine buses are equipped with two-way radios and remain in contact at all times with the schools and transportation department.

Harry also asked for motorists to show common courtesy when encountering city buses on the road. He once worked as a bus driver and said one of the most dangerous situations he encountered was when motorists were distracted while a bus was stopped to let children out at a stop.

“There were a few times when I was stopped and had the ‘stop’ arm out and the lights blinking and everything,” he said. “And there would be a motorist coming up from the other direction, so I’d stick my arm out the window and try to get the driver to stop, but then the driver would just wave right back. As they were passing, I noticed that they were on a cell phone.

“Please, if you’re in a school zone or a residential area where there are buses, don’t use the cell phone. Pay attention to everything that’s going on around you and let’s keep our children safe.”