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Bus safety tour nears finish
Visiting all 20 local elementary schools
Bus WEB 1
Steve Liederman, left, and Joe Calnan help first-grader Taylor Hipp exit a bus during a school bus safety event Wednesday at Big Creek Elementary. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Friday’s trip to Kelly Mill Elementary will wrap up the Forsyth County school system’s inaugural bus safety tour.

By then, students in each of the system’s 20 elementary schools will have completed the bus safety training.

“It’s been going great,” said Garry Puetz, transportation director for the district. “The kids have had a great time, the teachers and principals have been very positive and our drivers have loved it.”

Wednesday morning, the tour stopped at Big Creek Elementary. Each of the many safety stations took about four minutes for students to pass through.

Third-grader Benji Rose found it “fun to learn about this.”

“My favorite part was the learning about what SOAR meant,” he said. “… Now I’ll be better prepared.”

SOAR stands for “safe, orderly and respectful.” At the first station Wednesday, the students flapped their arms so they could “soar” like Elvis the Safety Owl.

Jessica McCloskey, a first-grade teacher at Big Creek, said the visit was “so important because [students] need to be able to be safe in all sorts of situations.”

“Bus safety is one of those situations where something really bad could happen, and now they’ll know how to keep safe,” she said.

According to Puetz, the bus tour is similar to the safety expo the system held last month before school started, only on a faster track. In total, students didn’t spend more than 30 minutes away from their classrooms.

Even those who don’t ride a bus to and from Big Creek participated Wednesday. If and when they go on a field trip, Puetz said, they need to know how to ride a bus.

The kids had fun but so did the bus drivers.

“It’s been a lot of work, but probably even more fun to get all these elementary schools trained,” Puetz said. “The drivers get a chance to see the kids in a different environment.

“It helps build a relationship between the driver and the students. They start seeing each other as teacher and student as opposed to bus driver and bus rider. It has been wonderful.”

It also was informative. According to Cathy Sykes, a school bus driver and student trainer, children learned how to exit the back of a school bus during an emergency.

“It takes three minutes for a school bus to be fully engulfed in flames, and this drill has to happen in less than two minutes,” Sykes said. “And those kids that this is the first time they’ve ridden the bus, sometimes they’re afraid to jump down from the back, which can slow down that whole process.

“But now that they’ve done it once they’re not going to be afraid to do it again in a real emergency situation.”

Autumn Vetter of the FCN staff contributed to this report.