The Dowagiac Union School District is made up of over 170 square miles of land and is populated by over 2340 students, many of whom ride a bus every day back and forth to school. In fact DUS runs 14 bus routes every day. Each bus transports on average 55 students between home and school. The secondary runs are the first of the day as the high school and middle school start times are 7:37 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. respectively. Once those students are dropped off the buses begin to pick up our elementary students which begin school around 8:45 a.m. give or take a few minutes depending upon the individual building.
In order for our bus routes to run efficiently, most of our drivers begin their day about 5:15 in the morning. Even before the first child steps on their bus, each bus has to be inspected. Lights, brakes, tires, etc. are all looked at by the drivers and our mechanic prior to hitting the road. If it is winter then the buses need to be thawed out and warmed up thoroughly. During a typical school year our drivers will cover 245,000 miles of road; most of which are two lanes and often poorly lit.
All of our bus drivers are certified through the Michigan Department of Education and go through six hours of recertification classes every other year. They are required to have a class B CDL (Commercial Driver License) with endorsements in Air Brakes and Pupil Transportation. They must also pass a Department of Transportation physical. Our drivers are highly trained and good at what they do.
Bus drivers are the first school employee that many of our students see in the morning. And after a few routes they know each student by name, know where they live and more about them than you would suspect. Bus drivers are also the last school employee they see as they get dropped off. Bus drivers are an important piece in the education of our students and they work hard to set a good tone for the student’s day.
Driving a bus is a challenge and takes concentration, patience and perseverance in order to be successful. At times there can be up to 75 students sitting behind a driver while traffic and busyness swirl all around the outside. Ideally the students, while on the bus, keep their hands to themselves, speak appropriately in hushed voices and do their best not to distract the driver. In cases where this doesn’t happen, drivers must address the issues behind them while focusing on the surroundings ahead of them. No small task but one that they do very well.
I bring these things up because getting students to school safely, on time and ready to learn is extremely important to student achievement. The DUS bus drivers do this day in and day out and they do it very well. I thank them for that.
This article was inspired by a similar piece written by my colleague Tony Habra, Superintendent of Paw Paw Public Schools.