BRES guidance counselors start bus rider challenge
The week of Feb. 13 was sketchy for school attendance. By Wednesday, Boothbay region kids had stayed home two out of three days, snowed in by Orson, a blizzard packing an attitude and plenty of snow. That meant the school buses were parked, giving the drivers an unexpected vacation. That was one way to celebrate School Bus Driver Appreciation week, held Feb. 13-17 as part of Love the Bus month, sponsored by the American School Bus Council.
However, had the drivers been ferrying kids back and forth every day as usual, they would have felt appreciated, anyway. The Boothbay Region Elementary School staff was honoring drivers in a big way with donut coupons, coffee mugs and breakfast after their morning run to school. A rider’s challenge was also planned.
BRES guidance counselors Kim Dionne and Sarah Gordon sparked the initiative to remind students to be respectful and safe during rides to and from school. Dionne, who counsels grades K-4, and Gordon, who counsels grades 5-8, began their efforts by holding a school-wide assembly where they spoke to students about riding safety. There, they rolled out the BRES RIDES Safely Challenge. RIDES stands for Respect others and property, Inside voices, Driver is in charge, Everyone clears the aisle, and Stay seated.
Dionne took the younger students out to a bus, where they sat in the seats while she played the part of a bus driver. “We did some direct teaching on how their behavior affects the bus driver,” she said. As one point, she said, she looked up into the rear-view mirror and explained how distracting certain behaviors can be to a driver who needs to pay attention to the road and the traffic.
Gordon and Dionne created poster-sized side views of each of the six buses serving BRES, leaving room in the middle of the drawing for a ruler with 100 blank spaces. They hung the posters near the cafeteria, so students would see them when they walked by. They provided each bus driver with gold, silver and bronze stickers, and located them near the driver. Students can look up and see them when boarding. At the end of each ride, the driver chooses the medal best modeling the behavior of the riders for that particular run. The medals are passed to Dionne or Gordon, and the marks are colored in each morning.
“Gold medals are worth three points, silver, two points, and bronze, one. We’re trying to see which bus can get to 100 points first,” said Dionne. Thus far, she said, they’ve seen only gold and silver medals. The first bus to reach its goal gets a party. The challenge will continue until the 100-point goal is reached.
Lyndon Roberts has been a school bus driver for 36 years. Currently, he drives No. 6. He thinks the challenge is fine, but said, “I’ve been doing this a long time and the students behave pretty well on my bus, anyway. They know I expect them to do. I don’t get much trouble.”
Judging by the amount of colored-in spaces on the wall near the cafeteria, his riders do respect him. On Wednesday, Feb. 15, Roberts’ bus had a narrow lead.