FORSYTH COUNTY -- Settles Bridge Elementary kindergarteners got a practice run Tuesday of boarding a school bus and heading to class.
Through the school system’s annual Kindergarten Round-Up program, parents of soon-to-be kindergarteners are picked up with their students at their bus stops and ride with their child to their respective school.
Tammy Webb, a transportation supervisor for schools on the county’s south end, said the event is always a good experience.
“[It] gives the parents an opportunity to actually ride the school bus with their student to see the route, to help get an understanding of what their ride will be like on the school bus … and then see what happens in the morning as far as when they get to school with the unloading process,” she said.
Bus drivers also go over information such as critical procedures for safety, when to be at the bus stop and how to behave while there.
“The school bus is new to so many of the students and parents too, for that matter, because it’s their first time they’re putting their kids on this bus to ride public transportation,” she said. “It will be the first time that they’re not sitting right next to their parent with them telling them how to behave, so this is important practice.”
While Tuesday’s event was a rehearsal, Thursday will be the real deal as the county’s 34 schools open their doors for the 2014-15 academic year.
More than 42,000 students are expected to fill those campuses’ hallways and classrooms this year, with many of them using the school district’s massive transportation program.
Garry Puetz, the system’s director of transportation, said he anticipates about 25,000 students will ride the big yellow bus to and from school most days.
“We’ll be running about 312 buses … and probably traveling over 23,000 miles a day,” he said. “All those numbers just keep getting bigger and bigger as the school system adds more students every year.”
Puetz said it will be especially important for everyone to be aware of the increased traffic in the first few weeks.
“We want everyone to be extra cautious and be patient with the parents, the students and the school bus drivers as we are working to develop our safe, orderly and respectful routines on the school bus,” he said.
“It takes a little while at the start of every school year and we would just ask that everyone be patient as we’re doing that.”
Puetz said it’s a good idea for everyone, regardless of whether they have children in school, to plan on leaving home a little earlier starting Thursday.
“Make plans to avoid school campuses during route time because they’re going to be very crowded and it’s going to take a while to get through there,” he said. “It takes some proactive steps to avoid high-traffic areas, which will be all the schools … and then just work with us to help protect all our students.”
As for drivers on the roads with school buses, Puetz said it’s important to remember to treat all bus signals with respect.
“Even if you just see a bus, it’s a warning to you that there are going to be students in the area so exercise extra caution around all our school buses,” he said.
“When the yellow flashing child pick-up lights and then the red flashing lights come on, treat that as a stop light and be aware of what’s going on because at that point we’ll have students loading and unloading our buses.”