FORSYTH COUNTY — Roads may not be packed with big yellow buses stuffed with children until Thursday, but you may have already seen some empty buses traveling around Forsyth County.
Their drivers don’t just hop behind the wheel on the first day of school to take their route for the first time. By the time they pick up their first student on Thursday, they will have been going over their routes for more than a week.
The Forsyth County school system will employ about 325 bus drivers this school year, including about 30 new hires.
Last year, drivers traveled 4.4 million miles to transport 64 percent of the student population to and from school.
“There are going to be delays for middle school pickups and drop-offs because they get released last, and you have elementary school students learning how to ride the bus safely,” said Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the school district.
Motorists and parents should expect heavy traffic Thursday and Friday as 4,500 employees and more than 44,000 students make their way to campus for the first time since May.
According to Garry Puetz, director of transportation for the district, the first couple of days are “a little bit different because people are beginning to learn and establish their routines again, and those routines involve all the safety habits we hope students and parents develop.”
According to Puetz, routes run late the first two days of school because students are not used to getting on and off the buses. Parents also like to take photos on the first day of school, and it is not safe for bus drivers to rush.
“It’s typical. But because people are learning what to do and how to do it, we want to take a little bit extra time, be a little extra cautious,” he said.
He asked parents to supervise children, especially kindergartners and other young students, and make sure they arrive to the bus stop at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time.
“Help us teach [your] students the safety habits we’ll be teaching them over the school year,” he said. “Look both ways. Don’t approach the bus until you get the signal.
“If you’re crossing the street, wait for a signal from the bus driver, and, more than anything else, respect the 12-foot danger zone that goes completely around the bus.”
Puetz noted parents who want to drive their children to school on Thursday when they normally will be riding the bus should just put them on the bus.
“Sometimes it can be scary to let them go, but teachers and administrators do a great job at meeting the kids at the bus and getting them to the classroom they’re supposed to get to,” he said. “And it sets a good example for students and gets them into a schedule.”
Motorist safety is vital, too.
“Leave a little but earlier than [you] normally do. Traffic around schools will be much heavier,” he said. “And there’re all kinds of construction in and around schools this year, and that will have an impact.”
He suggested drivers avoid school zones and roadways near schools if possible.
“Slow down when you see a bus and honor the child pick-up lights,” he said.
Amber lights mean slow down. When the red flashing lights appear with the stop sign, cars must stop. Vehicles cannot pass a bus that is picking up or dropping off children, and drivers look for children crossing the street. Failing to do so can result in a ticket.
For more information on bus routes and times or for questions, contact your district supervisor.
Each middle school houses a supervisor who is responsible for a number of schools.
To find your district supervisor, go to forsyth.k12.ga.us and click on the transportation department.